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Charter Schools: Leading the Way in Adopting Digital Curriculum

Charter Schools: Leading the Way in Adopting Digital Curriculum

Unsurprisingly, given their history as innovators of education, charter schools are often at the forefront of digital initiatives, including the adoption of digital curriculum. 

What’s driving the decision to adopt digital curriculum? In a recent survey we conducted on the state of curriculum, over 440 educators (ranging in title from teacher, to school leader, to superintendent) responded, revealing three main drivers: 

  1. Ensuring students have the skills needed for college and beyond
  2. The need to more easily see and close achievement gaps
  3. The desire to more easily navigate curriculum, and adapt it to support students.

Reason 1: Preparing Students for College and the Workforce

“Kids are growing up with the internet,” says Wideline Desarmes, principal of ECO Charter School in Camden, NJ. ECO went digital with their math and ELA curriculum in the fall of 2019. “The internet is our competitor. If we can use that in school, then we know our students are going to be engaged.”

Digital curriculum meets students where they are and utilizes the devices and the apps they’ll use both in higher education and in their careers. Additionally, digital technology often comes with student portals, which provides learners the opportunity to take ownership over their learning, with clear indicators of where they stand in their learning journeys, what they need to work on to hit their goals, and meet their potential. 

For students, becoming comfortable with technology, self-managing, and learning to advocate for their needs, is part of being ready for the future—regardless of what line of work they are in.

Reason 2: Seeing and Closing Achievement Gaps

For many administrators, there is year-round pressure to demonstrate value and achieve success. Teachers and leaders want to understand in real-time and consistently how students are performing against curriculum (a major financial investment!). 

22% of survey respondents stated that enabling “data-driven instruction” drove their decision to go digital. Knowing what’s working, what’s not, and where intervention is needed has become a necessity and crucial information to operate a successful school. 

Typically, print curriculum lives in isolation from day-to-day instruction, and doesn’t provide an  easy way to measure the efficacy of curriculum until testing season. Further, with traditional print materials, instruction is often paused for an all hands on deck “Data Day” to gain insight into performance. 

On the flip side, with the implementation of digital curriculum, educators can – for the first time – connect curriculum to instruction, and view the resulting data, in one place. Administrators and teachers can more easily see:

  • The fidelity of the implementation, including curriculum usage data 
  • Student achievement data with the click of a button, including standards-based reports
  • Achievement gaps and how to help close them

24% of respondents to our survey said they adopted digital curriculum because it was part of a blended learning initiative to enhance personalized learning.  With the right digital curriculum in place, a tight connection between curriculum and instruction, and real-time views of student data, educators have the tools to improve student learning outcomes. Through data-driven decision making and more personalized approaches, educators are equipped with tools to guide students to mastery of content and to provide targeted support for students who need remediation.  

In fact, Kiddom and Open Up Resources have partnered to perfect the personalization trifecta. 1) Open Up Resources curriculum comes with lesson-level resources for students who need additional support to meet grade-level standards, as well as for students ready for more advanced work, 2) additional supplemental resources for remediation are available in Kiddom’s vast K-12 library of 70,000 standards-aligned resources, and 3) best-in-class technology from Kiddom makes it easy to create individualized learning paths.

Reason 3: Ease of Navigation and Flexibility to Adapt Curriculum 

When instructional materials are available on paper alone, it is very time consuming to plan lessons, assess how students are mastering content, and tinker with instructional strategies to improve learning. On top of the lack of centralization and the time it takes to sift through the variety of paper materials such as binders and documents, an even bigger loss for students results from the fact that much of this review takes place after the school year – when it’s too late.

According to our survey, 23% of educators were looking to collaborate and share curriculum more easily. Whether creating their own materials, or purchasing digital content, a centralized digital reserve makes it easy to locate, assess, and modify curriculum regularly. Navigating across every level – from courses to units, all the way down to lesson plans – becomes painless, and schools gain the ability to supplement existing resources with more engaging and culturally-relevant substitutes.

Between constant innovation, accountability reporting, and responsive teaching, charter schools need more flexibility than print materials alone can provide. Digital curriculum and tools give charter schools the autonomy they need to improve student outcomes, retain talented teachers, and continue to be centers of innovation in their communities. 

At a typical Kiddom school, hands are in the air, there’s a buzz in the room, and teachers and students are energized. Kiddom was designed to help improve teacher retention and increase student performance and graduation rates.

For the first time, the most important parts of teaching and learning are connected and simplified in Kiddom. Curriculum lives in one place and is easily measured and refined, instruction is personalized to meet the needs of each student, and data serves as a powerful system of support for every member of the learning community to keep students on track.

Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available content, and how a digital tool can support your learning community.

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Principal Priscilla Salinas: The Lifelong Mentor

Principal Priscilla Salinas: The Lifelong Mentor

Principal Priscilla Salinas

Principal Priscilla Salinas

The Lifelong Mentor, Star School Leader Recipient

This is the final spotlight in a series of twelve, in which we feature the winning recipients of Kiddom’s annual Star School Leader Award. Look for the next one over the coming months by signing up for our newsletter.

 

Like many exceptional school leaders, Principal Priscilla Salinas of Henry Ford Elementary has had her sights set on community involvement for a long time. For her, each school day, decision, and action is bookended by questions like, what can I do to make a difference in other people’s lives? Or how can we impact students, parents, and staff beyond the school walls?

Although her father was a teacher and a coach, Priscilla was not initially drawn to the profession: “Everything I did was to get out of the ‘ordinary’. So I told him, ‘No way! I want to be something bigger.’” 

At first, Priscilla thought that law school would help toward that goal. But ultimately, she found that she could make the biggest impact inside the classroom. Principal Salinas spent 5 years teaching before becoming an administrator. But it wasn’t until she became a principal that she landed on ‘out of the ordinary’ — whether from her seat at the front office, behind the podium at morning assembly, or face-to-face with a goat at a petting zoo.

Principal Salinas was nominated for the Kiddom Star School Leader award by school librarian Narda Lugo, a longtime colleague. She wrote to us about the many hats that Priscilla wears over the school week:

“Mrs. Salinas leads by the heart. On Sundays at her home, she reads a bedtime story to the students and puts the video on our school social media to impart the importance of literacy.  She takes time from her family and demonstrates to the students and staff how much she cares for our community. She kissed a baby goat in the past when the whole school received perfect attendance.  She sincerely is a remarkable leader that many look up to and have learned to love.”

— Narda Lugo, librarian at Henry Ford Elementary, TX

Henry Ford Elementary and the Spirit of Giving Back

Located in the southern heart of Hidalgo County, TX — which neighbors Mexico — Henry Ford Elementary School serves roughly 800 students. According to 2018 statistics, 44% of students are English language learners, and 92% are economically disadvantaged. As principal, Priscilla has made it her mission to ensure that the statistics stop there. 

For most young kids, elementary school is one of the first secular, non-familial communities that a child ever knows. As such, Principal Salinas makes it her job to help students and families feel supported within the school community. Under her purview, Henry Ford has become a place that affirms the value of each child, parent, and family, as frequently as it assigns value to students’ schoolwork.

“The best part of my job is seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces, and knowing that somehow — whether it’s because of their grades, or because you gave them a hug — the kids come to you and say good morning. They acknowledge you for a reason, and they know that you care.”

— Principal Priscilla Salinas, Henry Ford Elementary, TX

Henry Ford Elementary begins each morning with a Daily Assembly. Students can get involved by leading the pledge or reading announcements, or they can simply enjoy each other’s company over breakfast. In order to foster a sense of respect for one another, every accomplishment, milestone, and birthday is celebrated together. These daily assemblies feed into a larger initiative that Priscilla has dubbed Project Respect.

Periodically, the daily assembly will include a PowerPoint presentation on vital social skills that may otherwise go untaught. “We teach kids how to apologize to each other, or how to accept ‘no’ for an answer — just simple things. Our culture here is to be respectful.” 

The focus on respect and community travels with the students wherever they go: “When our kids go on a field trip, [the hosts] can tell the difference between our students and those from other campuses, or other districts. for that matter.”

Over the past two school years, students have visited the elderly to sing holiday carols, and rounded up gifts to give away at a local hospital. They’ve even invited families to the campus for a holiday meal, presenting every child with a gift — no matter their age. “That’s the biggest difference, year to year. We bring the community in.” 

Principal Salinas has even had parents comment on the marked difference between the culture at Henry Ford and that of other schools. “That’s just the biggest reward,” Priscilla says. “It’s all you ever wanted; to hear and see that [the hard work] that has transpired, and spirals back into the community.”

“There’s so much that we deal with on a daily basis—you’re really the custodian, the counselor, the teacher, the principal, the parent. So you have to be passionate about what you do. If you don’t love what you do, every day and every minute, it’s just not for you.”

— Principal Priscilla Salinas, Henry Ford Elementary, TX

Inspiring Lifelong Learners, by Being One

As passionate as Principal Salinas feels about her job, she works day after day to make sure her staff can feel the same way. Priscilla recognizes teamwork among teachers and staff as the driving factor that makes kids excited about learning.

It’s what makes them proud to call Henry Ford Elementary their community. “When you find a community like this, you’ll give 110%, you’ll work hard, you’ll want to come to work every day. That’s the culture I try to instill in them, so they can bring that love to their classrooms and get results from the kids.”

Ford Elementary staff also uses technology to elicit passion from the students. “Our teachers have been using media pieces to create their lessons; it’s all very interactive. They are very, very creative, and the lessons are amazing. We have a librarian who really pushes technology as well. Every time we have something new, whether it’s nationally or district-wide, she brings it in and incorporates it into lessons, and in the library as well.”

The afore-mentioned librarian, Narda Lugo, who nominated Priscilla for this award, has a twelve-year history with Principal Salinas. In fact, it was Principal Salinas who inspired her to pursue a more administrative role:

“Mrs. Salinas inspired me to continue my education by obtaining my Master’s. I worked with her for seven years as a teacher before going back to school for my Master’s in Library Science. I will forever be grateful to Mrs. Salinas for giving my first teaching position, then for hiring me again as a librarian…. She is a role model to many, and continuously encourages us to grow.”

— Narda Lugo, librarian at Henry Ford Elementary, TX

Leading by example is a key tenet in the culture that Principal Salinas has built at Henry Ford Elementary. “The leader that you become,” she says, “is a reflection of what you build. So you need to have a great administration sitting right beside you.” 

Most notably, she has inspired multiple Henry Ford staff members to return to school for their own education, saying that “this community might lose a teacher, but there are others out there who will gain a role model.”

This framing of sacrifice for the greater good has trickled down to the teachers at Henry Ford, and Principal Salinas believes they are all the better for it. Each year, the school hosts a Goody Week for the teachers, where each grade level team has to bring breakfast for one day of professional development.

Year after year, the teachers eagerly pitch in on the menu. The tradition of Goody Week sustains a sense of community in which everybody has a stake. “I think they realize they’ve got something special. It’s just an amazing campus, a dream team, and a dream place to work at. It’d be hard to find it anywhere else.”

Recap: What Makes a Star School Leader?

Great school leaders empower their teachers. What teachers do is one of the most difficult, and often thankless jobs. And while we all agree that teachers are the true heroes of every school system, it takes a special kind of leader to enable their teachers with the right support to focus on the important things. Like teaching.

The Star School Leader rubric stands on three pillars, hanging from one common theme:

  1.  Empowering others by setting a positive attitude, culture, and environment.
  2.  Empowering others with the right use of technology as a means and not an end.
  3.  Empowering others through supportive coaching and access to professional development.

To read about the rest of the Star School Leaders, visit our recipient announcement page.

Principal Priscilla Salinas: The Lifelong Mentor

At Henry Ford Elementary (TX), teachers, staff, parents, and students alike are brought together and inspired by Principal Priscilla Salinas’ leadership.

10 Summer Reading Recommendations for Educators

Team members from Kiddom share the books that caught their eye this summer. These reading recommendations will satisfy every educator’s busy and curious mind.

Professional Development for Teachers: Bring Kiddom to your school

The first place a teacher will look for support is down the hall. Benefit your team by introducing a collaborative tool that brings your goals within reach.

We Asked 100 Admins: How Do You Stay Up-to-date on Educational Technology?

We asked school administrators about their concerns, and how they discover and adopt tools to address them. Read their answers here.

Early Warning Response Systems: Follow Us to Greenville, SC to Learn More

Next week, we have the wonderful opportunity to visit a district in Greenville, South Carolina to watch their early warning response system in action. Join us in our journey!

More From the Star School Leader Series

Principal Keith Nemlich: The Thoughtful Leader

Principal Keith Nemlich: The Thoughtful Leader

Principal Keith Nemlich

Principal Keith Nemlich

The Thoughtful Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Keith Nemlich was once the lead technology administrator for a school near his hometown. Now as a principal, Mr. Nemlich views technology as a way to open doors that may otherwise be closed to kids from a rural environment.

Along the same line of uplifting those often left behind, Principal Nemlich often supports the community of Central Elementary School in Bellows Falls, VT by taking on responsibilities that may be beyond the purview of a typical school administrator. His caring involvement in the well-being of his students centers him as a resource that can be trusted by teachers and learners alike.

This is the penultimate spotlight in a series of twelve, in which we feature the winning recipients of Kiddom’s annual Star School Leader Award. Look for the next one over the coming months by signing up for our newsletter.

Principal Keith Nemlich describes his job in a way that may contradict the closest and most common perceptions of it: “My job is to reduce stress—for my teachers, and for the support staff, and for the students,” he says. “If there’s any more stress brought in, that impacts learning, teacher performance, and everything else.”

Unlike a handful of the Star School Leaders featured before him, (and droves of principals across the nation), Mr. Nemlich does not have a class to teach. Still, one of many methods he uses to relieve stress around his community is to maintain a consistent presence in every classroom. “Quite honestly one of my concerns about becoming a school administrator was that I would just sit not in an office and lose that contact with students. But the size of the school gives me the chance as principal to connect with kids on a regular basis.”

Each morning, Principal Nemlich drives an hour out to Central Elementary School, a K-4 school where 65% of the population receives free/reduced lunch. In Keith’s words, many students have come to view the school as a haven: “When they get here in the morning, they are genuinely happy to be in school. And we just thrive off of that energy and give ourselves a wide berth for having fun.”

What makes Principal Nemlich a remarkable leader is his willingness to share the same ground as his staff, orienting himself to face the same obstacles and triumphs. “I bet if you ask the kids, you’ll find that there’s probably five or six other people that they will name —‘Oh yeah, that’s the principal’—simply because it’s a very much of shared leadership environment.” This closeness also allows staff members to take the lead in fields that nurture their own passions, making sure every teacher has the space to give the best of themselves to the community.

Building Community Around Turmoil

For Keith, the work of empowering others to become leaders does not stop at the staff level. He is most proud of the fact that his school secured funding to become the first official “Leader In Me” school in Vermont. Based on the ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey, the program imparts the same values on K-4 students as it offers to corporate leaders. 

“That’s huge because a lot of these kids, as early as kindergarten, have to become their own biggest advocates,” Keith says. “We’ve got a lot of kids in families of tremendous turmoil, and they’re the ones that are going to have to keep their ships afloat. It’s really about giving them a framework and tools to help them with that process.”

As much as he appreciates consistency within the program, Keith emulates it by encouraging students and teachers to rise to a sense of responsibility to each other, to their families, and to their community.

“Mr. Keith Nemlich is a principal who truly prioritizes children’s needs. He is a caring, compassionate, thoughtful, inspiring leader who models patience, persistence and playfulness.”

Judy Verespy, 1st grade teacher at Central Elementary School, VT

As a Common Core school, Central Elementary is held to performance standards that are somewhat removed from the community they have built. Added to that is another layer to which many schools can probably relate: “Our kids don’t come in at the starting line. In many cases, they come in about 20 steps behind the starting line. For a lot of kids, it’s almost like constant catch up.”

In other environments, this strain might detract from the satisfaction of teaching and learning. But again, the strength and size of the community ensures that students are there for each other. “Nobody really feels behind everybody else. It’s just business as usual. That makes for a very comfortable environment. These kids really know each other, and care about each other.”

The innately familiar bonds that kids form with each other must be modeled somewhere. It’s likely that they learned to view each other as complete and complex beings as a result of Principal Neimlich’s leadership. On a daily basis, he’s making decisions and interventions that affect students far beyond the classroom. 

“Every day you come in and it can be just about anything. Yesterday, our septic lines backed up and we had to get the plumbers and clean out the lines. Or it might be helping parents understand how to interpret testing results from a school psychologist. Just about everything and anything to helping a kid tie their shoes. You know that it’s really the the full gamut every day. And I really love that. And just watching the kids grow.” 

“I’m very fortunate to work where I work. It’s a community is very different from my hometown, and it’s a very different school than where I had just come from as the tech administrator. But it’s the kind of place where you come in every day and feel like you make a difference.”

Principal Keith Nemlich, Central Elementary School, VT

Opening Doors with Technology 

Principal Nemlich’s career began with a strong interest in the intersection of technology and education. He began as a middle school math teacher, and then gravitated toward a role as technology administrator. “Every couple of years my super superintendent would call me into the office and say, ‘When are you really going to get serious about this stuff?’ Which was their way of trying to get me to think about becoming an administrator.”

Eventually, the technology administrator role was removed from the school budget, in an effort to consolidate services throughout the district. This prompted Keith to look for a role as principal, but he never left behind his passion for technology:

“The thing that’s so promising about technology is that it holds the potential to be sort of the great equalizer in education and public education. Technology holds the promise of allowing a kid in rural Vermont to receive the same experience in regards to technology as a kid growing up in a more affluent area.”

–Principal Keith Nemlich, Central Elementary School, VT

To Keith, it’s not just the jobs of tomorrow that students should be concerned about. He’s seen firsthand how a lack of experience with technology can put professionals behind in their search: “My wife is a human resources professional. And she can say very clearly, contact with computer equipment on any level is like the biggest determiner for her. There’s so much extra training that they would have to do in order to feel comfortable.”

Within education, Principal Nemlich has applied this knowledge to implementing technology at any school he works with: “It’s not about devices and you know, I can’t put any more time in our day. So we have to be very mindful of the tradeoffs between resources.”

Even better than tradeoffs are the chances one gets to develop or gain more than one skill. In communicating change to parents, Keith often finds himself praising technology for its ability to promote what he calls double learning: “If your child is working on an essay for school and they’re writing on a device, they’re working on their writing skills but they’re also working on their computer skills and those are both real, marketable skills. And they really do need to be taught. Because while kids may have a lot of exposure to other technology, they aren’t going home to play around with spreadsheets.”

Recap: What Makes a Star School Leader?

Great school leaders empower their teachers. What teachers do is one of the most difficult, and often thankless jobs. And while we all agree that teachers are the true heroes of every school system, it takes a special kind of leader to enable their teachers with the right support to focus on the important things. Like teaching.

The Star School Leader rubric stands on three pillars, hanging from one common theme:

  1.  Empowering others by setting a positive attitude, culture, and environment.
  2.  Empowering others with the right use of technology as a means and not an end.
  3.  Empowering others through supportive coaching and access to professional development.

To read about the rest of the Star School Leaders, visit our recipient announcement page.

Principal Priscilla Salinas: The Lifelong Mentor

At Henry Ford Elementary (TX), teachers, staff, parents, and students alike are brought together and inspired by Principal Priscilla Salinas’ leadership.

10 Summer Reading Recommendations for Educators

Team members from Kiddom share the books that caught their eye this summer. These reading recommendations will satisfy every educator’s busy and curious mind.

Professional Development for Teachers: Bring Kiddom to your school

The first place a teacher will look for support is down the hall. Benefit your team by introducing a collaborative tool that brings your goals within reach.

We Asked 100 Admins: How Do You Stay Up-to-date on Educational Technology?

We asked school administrators about their concerns, and how they discover and adopt tools to address them. Read their answers here.

Early Warning Response Systems: Follow Us to Greenville, SC to Learn More

Next week, we have the wonderful opportunity to visit a district in Greenville, South Carolina to watch their early warning response system in action. Join us in our journey!

More From the Star School Leader Series

Principal Traci O. Filiss: The Technology Pioneer

Principal Traci O. Filiss: The Technology Pioneer

Principal Traci O. Filiss

Principal Traci O. Filiss

The Technology Pioneer, Star School Leader Recipient

Principal Traci O. Filiss has experience working in traditional and virtual schools, but nothing compares to the blended learning model she created for her own charter school in Taos, New Mexico. This is the tenth spotlight in a series of twelve, in which we feature the winning recipients of Kiddom’s annual Star School Leader Award. Look for the others over the coming months by signing up for our newsletter.

 

Long ago, Traci Filiss wanted to use her degree in biology to work in the State Forestry Division of New Mexico. Her mentor in the program told her that she’d be great in education, and “she was correct. It’s been an incredible career and highly rewarding. And I’m glad I did it.”

Before becoming an administrator, Filiss spent 15 years in the classroom, teaching every subject and grade-band at one point or another. She then returned to school for a master’s in curriculum design & digital learning. “That’s when I realized that education was quickly going to shift toward this new modality of learning, and I was highly motivated to get into that world.”

With this vested interest in digital learning, the superintendent asked Traci to open a totally virtual school that served students from across the state. “I did that for three years and realized that I really missed the kids. Because I never got to see them, I missed out on the face-to-face piece.”

So, she set out to change her life, and the lives of others, for the better.

 

Founding Taos Academy

After realizing that a completely virtual school didn’t suit her passion for teaching, Principal Filiss began working on a model for a school that would. At the same time, the district got a new superintendent.

The new superintendent did not approve of the vision for Taos Academy, so Traci took it to the state and got a charter approved. “That was ten years ago,” she tells us. And that was when I became an administrator by default.” 

“I was not happy with my superintendent for not letting me do what I wanted to do, so I did it anyway.”

Traci Filiss, founder and head of Taos Academy

The mission of Taos Academy “surrounds academic achievement, leadership, and global awareness.” Imagining the typical Taos Academy graduate was at the top of mind while Traci and friend collaborated to write the charter. “We felt that it was most important to be that self-motivated learner who understands how to give back.”

So, how does one create and nurture this kind of learner? Principal Filiss believes content education is only part of the solution. “To be honest, you know, content is content. Beyond that, it’s about how you use content to make a better place for yourself and others. And that takes internal motivation—how do you use what you have to make the world a better place?”

Traci’s proudest feat as principal is watching the school she built become the environment that supports a self-motivated, community-involved learner.  “The kids that we are graduating are stellar. They have incredible goals. They know how to give back. It’s incredibly rewarding to know that something that you know you you put on paper that is fairly new and innovative can actually produce such an incredible well such incredible human beings, actually. They’re really amazing.”

How is technology used to fulfill your school’s mission?

While technology “expands and quadruples itself every five minutes,” Principal Filiss uses its adaptability to benefit her school. The methods at Taos Academy have changed over the years, but only to rear the same result: “if you teach students how to learn, and how to grow a passion for learning, they will learn. Period.” 

At Taos Academy, technology is used to give time back to teachers, so they deliver on-time support to the students that need it. By delivering content online, technology also increases autonomy for the students that don’t. “To sum it up, it’s about building lifelong, self-motivated learner. That’s actually written in our charter, and this school actually does that for real.”

Under the Taos Academy model, teachers also benefit from increased autonomy and ownership—a feat that Principal Filiss insists on as a school leader:

The strength of teaching has to do with teachers being able to create, and having the flexibility to do the things they feel passionate about. And boy, there’s nothing like a teacher when a teacher is passionate. Then, the students will pick up on it, and you can see their passion, too. So why not support teachers in the areas that they are passionate about? It helps everybody.

–Traci Filiss, founder and head of Taos Academy

Having learned from her time at a completely virtual school, and adapted , Principal Filiss now leverages technology as a tool for building relationships—not replacing them. “The Internet and computers have allowed us to become world learners instead of just local ones. And that’s what we need in our society: tools that not only help us to create, but also share out to the world and enlighten a broader audience.”

On Change Management (Straight from Her Dissertation)

With 25 years of experience in at least 3 different types of schools, Traci is no stranger to the toll of changing structures and initiative fatigue. For her Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology, Curriculum, and Design, she is writing a dissertation on change management as it relates to the challenges that administrators face, with a lack of support. “In business, [supporting leaders in change management] might get more focus, because it affects revenue. But in schools, we don’t necessarily have that.

In order for us to change education in this country and be more competitive in the world, we have to get our administrators on board with how to change, how to set and present expectations.

–Traci Filiss, founder and head of Taos Academy

According to Traci’s research and advice, the best structures for change management have a deep understanding of the communities they manage. “Our school is very community-oriented, and I think the structures and feeling we have here can be replicated. It’s all about building relationships. You have to look at the community, and mold [change] around the relationships that happen.”

 

Click here to download our change management guide, brought to you by Star School Leaders across the nation!

Recap: What Makes a Star School Leader?

Great school leaders empower their teachers. What teachers do is one of the most difficult, and often thankless jobs. And while we all agree that teachers are the true heroes of every school system, it takes a special kind of leader to enable their teachers with the right support to focus on the important things. Like teaching.

The Star School Leader rubric stands on three pillars, hanging from one common theme:

  1.  Empowering others by setting a positive attitude, culture, and environment.
  2.  Empowering others with the right use of technology as a means and not an end.
  3.  Empowering others through supportive coaching and access to professional development.

To read about the rest of the Star School Leaders, visit our recipient announcement page.

Principal Priscilla Salinas: The Lifelong Mentor

At Henry Ford Elementary (TX), teachers, staff, parents, and students alike are brought together and inspired by Principal Priscilla Salinas’ leadership.

10 Summer Reading Recommendations for Educators

Team members from Kiddom share the books that caught their eye this summer. These reading recommendations will satisfy every educator’s busy and curious mind.

Professional Development for Teachers: Bring Kiddom to your school

The first place a teacher will look for support is down the hall. Benefit your team by introducing a collaborative tool that brings your goals within reach.

We Asked 100 Admins: How Do You Stay Up-to-date on Educational Technology?

We asked school administrators about their concerns, and how they discover and adopt tools to address them. Read their answers here.

Early Warning Response Systems: Follow Us to Greenville, SC to Learn More

Next week, we have the wonderful opportunity to visit a district in Greenville, South Carolina to watch their early warning response system in action. Join us in our journey!

More From the Star School Leader Series

Principal Tamara Jones-Jackson: The Analytical Leader

Principal Tamara Jones-Jackson: The Analytical Leader

Principal Tamara Jones-Jackson

Principal Tamara Jones-Jackson

The Analytical Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Principal Tamara Jones-Jackson began her career as a teacher for students with learning disabilities. By working with the same students year after year, she began to see teaching as a relationship: “You’ll never be able to get through to anyone if you don’t have that [first].” Her leadership style follows the same vein. 

This is the ninth spotlight in a series of twelve, in which we feature the winning recipients of Kiddom’s annual Star School Leader Award. Look for the others over the coming months by signing up for our newsletter.

After 17 years in education, the best advice that Tamara Jones-Jackson can give comes easily to her: “Teach to touch their hearts, and they’ll give you their minds.” Being on the receiving end of this approach to teaching may have been what attracted her to the profession in the first place. 

Principal Jones-Jackson once had a one-track mind for business when she was a student; it was her major in college until one of her professors inspired her to go into education. Before she was an administrator, Tamara spent 10 years in the classroom as a special education teacher, building relationships with students year after year.

She continues to apply this experience to her role as a principal by supporting students. “One of my administrators always used to say that I’d make a wonderful principal,” Jones-Jackson recalls. “I told her that I enjoyed working with students as a teacher, or even with the families as a counselor, but I’m not sure I’d ever want to be an administrator.”

“Now I think I have the best of both worlds. As a principal, you’re managing the business aspect of the school, and you’re still connected with the children.”

Now entering her second year as the head of Ralph J. Bunche Elementary School, Principal Jones-Jackson most enjoys the ability to help in every aspect of a school setting: “When you are a teacher you’re confined to a particular area. But as an administrator you can participate in the world outside of the school as well as the world within.”

High Risk, Guaranteed Reward

The 2019-2020 school year will be Tamara’s eighth year in administration, and her second year at Ralph J. Bunche. Over the years, Principal Jones-Jackson has made a name for herself by working with schools that have been named a priority risk. At her last school in Taylor, MI, she was given 4 years to raise test scores and take the school off of that list. She was able to do it in two.

Principal Jones-Jackson’s entire career in education has been spent with at-risk students: first in special education supporting students with learning disabilities, and now at Ralph J. Bunche serving a 100% at-risk population. All students receive free and reduced lunch, and many are bussed in from inner-city Detroit.

“My leadership style is to build teacher capacity for a quick turnaround, and make sure the students are getting what they need.”

Principal Tamara Jones-Jackson, Ralph J. Bunche Elementary

Bunche Elementary is comprised of pre-K through 3rd grade students, with plans to serve 4th graders in the near future. While the issue of classroom space remains a barrier, Principal Jones-Jackson pours attention and resources into the area where they’ll have the most impact: “Right now, my focus is on building teacher capacity within the school so that the teachers will have the skillset and the encouragement they need to support our children.”

 “In 3 short months, Principal Jones-Jackson has created a functioning PTO where we never had one before. She has allowed teachers to take leadership roles for the betterment of the school, changed procedures to make things run smoother, and provided guidance and instruction on how to use our data more effectively so that we can better serve our students.” 

 

— Sandra Fuoco, teacher at Ralph J. Bunche Elementary

The Right Resources, The Right Timing

By supporting teachers with the right resources at the right time, Principal Jackson-Jones hopes to improve test scores and other factors that drive decision-making at the district level. She is most proud of the fact that school employees work together as a team: “It typically takes 2-5 years to create that sort of culture, but we’ve been able to bridge the gaps between staff, to where they’re actually working together to do Common prep time—they’re working as a team and not in silos.”

 “What astonishes me the most [about Principal Jones-Jackson] is how she always gets things done! In a struggling district without extra income, we now have a communication system in the building, ceiling tiles and bleachers are fixed (which haven’t been in years), and teachers are getting much needed resources. AND she does this all with a smile and positive attitude.  In my 2 decades of teaching, she is truly the most inspirational, motivational, and believable leader I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”

 

— Sandra Fuoco, teacher at Ralph J. Bunche Elementary

Principal Jones-Jackson acknowledges the draw to constant technology, as well as the threat it poses. “It seems like babies are coming out with cell phones in their hands. It’s just the new way.” She recalls a recent article she read about how some schools are trying to deactivate their kids from the constant technological access. We recently read a similar article, in which schools were using low-tech technology to do so. In these situations, she adds, some students are even having technology withdrawals.

But despite the risks of bringing technology into the classroom, there are rewards. Principal Jones-Jackson admits that she finds herself being drawn to technology for the ability to “just be able to go and pick something up to read a news article without having to go to the library and read about it.” To Principal Jackson, it seems that technology is inseparable to the future in education. “Technology is everything. And I don’t see us moving forward without it in any capacity—whether that’s personal or professional.”

Recap: What Makes a Star School Leader?

Great school leaders empower their teachers. What teachers do is one of the most difficult, and often thankless jobs. And while we all agree that teachers are the true heroes of every school system, it takes a special kind of leader to enable their teachers with the right support to focus on the important things. Like teaching.

The Star School Leader rubric stands on three pillars, hanging from one common theme:

  1.  Empowering others by setting a positive attitude, culture, and environment.
  2.  Empowering others with the right use of technology as a means and not an end.
  3.  Empowering others through supportive coaching and access to professional development.

To read about the rest of the Star School Leaders, visit our recipient announcement page.

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