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Principal Faith Stroud

Principal Faith Stroud

The Passionate Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

We spoke to Principal Faith Stroud about how to instill worthwhile values in an engaging way. This is the fourth 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, or check out our School Leadership page, which we will update with each new spotlight.

 

Making The Decision to Become a Star School Leader

Principal Faith Stroud of Robert Frost Sixth-Grade Academy wears the badge of “NERD” with pride — as she should. Through hard work and leadership, she lives her principles rather than simply lecturing them, and encourages the members of her school community to do the same. But where did Stroud’s path to leadership begin?

After earning her History degree, with an emphasis on African-American History, she began her career as a substitute teacher. Stroud then completed her alternate certification as an educator through her university. Noting the lack of representation for black students and educators in math and science, she entered the field as a permanent teacher of 7th and 8th grade math.

For Stroud, the transition to an administrative role was defined by the ability to impact more students. Citing the self-management book Good to Great by Jim Collins, she describes the shift in her career as being able to go beyond technical solutions to land on adaptive solutions. “Individually in my classroom, I don’t have those adaptive processes at my core. I believe that all kids learn absolutely. I believe all kids will learn at a great level. The challenge pushing all of the administration has been: how do you then impart that passion and belief into others that might not necessarily start with that?” 

 

“It’s kind of like The Matrix. You know, sometimes you have to go into the Matrix to help solve problems. And so I decided to become an administrator. I had great success as a classroom teacher, so I was hoping as an administrator I would be able to have success systemically and impact more scholars than I would be able to in just one classroom.”

— Faith Stroud, principal, Robert Frost Sixth-Grade Academy 

Into the Matrix: Becoming a Star School Leader

As an administrator, Principal Stroud has earned accolades and trust, allowing her to lead in the spirit of innovation, not tradition. Before there was Robert Frost Sixth-Grade Academy, Stroud stepped into her role as principal at one of the lowest performing middle schools in the state.

Under her leadership, the school narrowed and refined its focus to exclusively serve sixth graders. “The ACT study talks about sixth grade as the year that determines a child’s future success,” she says. “We try to do as much as possible to ensure that when our scholars leave our academy, they’re on a trajectory to be college and career ready.”

70% of students at Robert Frost enter the 6th grade performing below grade level. For Principal Stroud, this statistic defines her purpose rather than challenges it. Since its opening four years ago, the Robert Frost Sixth-Grade Academy has seen steady upward progress, soaring out of their previous bracket as one of the lowest performing schools in the state.

“Mrs. Stroud is a very strong leader and true advocate for our scholars and our staff. She doesn’t ask anything of us that she is not willing to do herself. She has worked to put a Chromebook in every scholar’s hands at our school, which for our district is not the case everywhere else. She works and budgets to set up field trips for our scholars that have real world ties to their curriculum and provides them with experiences that they may not be able to have otherwise. She is a fully transparent leader who works diligently to provide our scholars with the best educators in their field.” 

— Sandra Stinson, Teacher at Robert Frost Sixth-Grade Academy

So, what’s a day like at Robert Frost Sixth-Grade Academy?

Beyond exploring new talents, sixth graders at Robert Frost Academy feel connected to their school through the curriculum that colors their class time. Principal Stroud challenges her staff to collaborate in lesson planning and provide a seamless interdisciplinary experience for their students. “We truly try to increase the relevance of what kids are learning to make it more meaningful and engaging to them,” she shares.

Principal Stroud’s background in African-American history influences her views on education as a gatekeeper. At Robert Frost, students are more than just sixth-graders: they are citizens. “It’s youth who have led many of the revolutions that helped change the course of where society was headed,” she says.

As an administrator, she works from within “the matrix” to ensure that her school, staff, and other influencers of learning treat their charge with the same reverence. This means strengthening the connection between lessons and life outside the school’s walls.

Regardless of benchmarks, every student under her purview has an equal opportunity to broaden their horizons and find a passion that tethers them to the community. “I’m a firm believer in exposure to the arts,” she adds. “Every scholar in my building takes music, whether it’s band, orchestra, or chorus.”

“Fundamentally, education is one of the greatest civil rights that we have afforded to us. And so it’s my passion to try to empower scholars and equip them with the skills necessary to be successful.”
— Faith Stroud, principal, Robert Frost Sixth-Grade Academy  

The school also emphasizes mindfulness, which ensures that students aren’t just ready to place into the next level of math, but also capable of weathering whatever the world may send their way. “I believe that all kids learn absolutely. I believe all kids will learn at a great level. The challenge pushing all of the administration has been: how do you then impart that passion and belief into those that might not necessarily start with that?”

What are you most proud of as principal?

In its four years of operation, Robert Frost has seen fewer and fewer behavioral issues throughout the school year, allowing teachers to focus more of their time on instruction. Principal Stroud accredits this trend to the expectations and systems set in place by her and the rest of the staff.

Contributing to this trend of improvement is the nature of the school as a boon for the surrounding community, providing glimmers of hope to students and bringing far-off experiences into reach. One of these initiatives includes a music festival that showcases student talent in a competitive environment. 

“I had a scholar who came to me after they went to the music festival. There were so excited because they were Distinguished in music sight reading. But this is also a scholar who, when they started the year, was a novice in reading overall. So the fact that you’re able to help show people that there are multiple types of gifts. That one area of growth doesn’t define you.”

The mission of the Robert Frost Sixth-Grade Academy is “to empower scholars to be 21st century leaders and soar to new heights.” The school carries out this goal by empowering students with knowledge as well as courage and confidence.

Behind Principal Stroud’s desk hangs a Marvel comics flag that is reportedly matched by superhero posters throughout the entire school. Principal Stroud uses these visual aids to impart the fact that greatness is an aim, not an accident. “A superhero is just an ordinary person that’s doing extraordinary things,” she says.

Students leave Robert Frost Academy knowing that their future is theirs to build, regardless of what came before it.

“So many heroes have tragic stories, but tragedy doesn’t define you. You can overcome in life and use it to your advantage because of your resilience and your grit. You can really almost do more than other people can.”
— Faith Stroud, principal, Robert Frost Sixth-Grade Academy 

What should be technology’s role in the classroom?

Principal Stroud is proud to be at the helm of a school with a 1:1 Chromebook ratio, which lends itself to the goal of preparing students for life beyond class. At Robert Frost, technology works toward two goals, both of which can be adapted to serve various levels of learning.

First, the Chromebooks are used to help scholars practice digital literacy. As technology becomes more and more expansive in reach, students come into school already well-versed in its use. These scholars come from a generation of content creators on YouTube, Instagram, and other social media apps. Chromebooks in the classroom can tap into that drive to create and redirect it toward educational content.

Secondly, technology enables personalized curriculum for students that range in learning styles and interests. “There’s usually about a standard deviation of fifteen on most of our data sets, which is a huge spread. Due to the level of differentiation needed for our scholars, the computers provide that,” she says. With the 1:1 ratio of Chromebooks, teachers are able to group students by levels of mastery and provide personal support.

Principal Stroud offers this advice to schools implementing a new technology initiative: “Provide examples of what you want (implementation to look like).” Inviting adults to visualize what can be accomplished with the new technology can help give them a goalpost to work toward.

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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