1. Why do you seek to become a Principal/Assistant Principal for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District?
I have viewed The Cleveland Plan and I want to be a part of the movement to increase student achievement while creating the environment of change for the city of Cleveland. I believe through the success of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District; the city of Cleveland will experience regrowth and renewal. It is an exciting time for the CMSD and the stakeholders.
Having lived in several different cities has enabled me to acquire the skills to be part of a successful team. I know what good teamwork looks like in a successful school. Other key skills I have acquired include creating a learning environment which is engaging for students. I have also acquired a wide variety of technological skills and participated in and provided many different professional development opportunities.
And I want to work in a district which empowers its employees and provides hope for its students. I want to work with students, parents, faculty/staff, and community stakeholders to provide opportunities and resources by offering a collaborative, positive, meaningful learning experience. My goal is to have a larger impact on education and I truly believe I will have this opportunity at Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
2. We have determined that our most successful principals continuously seek to improve both their strengths and weaknesses. Describe in detail one thing you feel confident in your abilities, and describe one thing you wish to improve about your ability to be a strong principal and school leader.
Being a successful principal (or assistant principal) requires many different abilities. I selected my decision making/problem solving skills as my one strength in which I am confident. While I approach decisions logically and with a level-head, I am not afraid to think outside the box. As a school leader, I will be expected to handle problems as they arise, and I am not afraid to look at differing points before making final decisions. Successful principals have the ability to think critically and problem solve.
It is very important for school leaders to also be constant learners and set the tone for growth. As a successful principal (or assistant principal), I will always vigorously pursue avenues to improve my position as a school leader through on/off-site professional development, continuing education at the doctorate level, book studies, and/or peer mentoring. My business is education and it is vital for my actions to reflect the need for all adults to be lead-learners by demonstrating a willingness to grow and learn.
3. Describe a time you had to work with a team or someone different than yourself. Describe the differences. What challenges did you face? What was the end result?
I have had many opportunities in my academic career as a student and teacher to work with teammates who were different from me. The differences have included but are not limited to race, sex, age, educational level, and ability level. The challenges we faced had to do with how different people approached problems and how they solved those problems.
One specific time I remember was when I was working with another teacher on a student project. I am the type person who does not procrastinate. I like to have a calendar with all the due dates for assignments/projects/reports listed and I begin work almost immediately. The other teacher and I were different ages, with me being older. The other teacher had a less structured attitude towards teaching and work ethic than I held. This was evident when we sat down to plan the approach for implementing a pilot reading program at the middle school where we both worked. We had decided to use her classroom because her classes consisted of the three different grade levels at the urban school. We choose her classroom so we could demonstrate the success levels of the differing grades. We decided to meet once a week to discuss progress, share data collected, and any other issues which needed to be addressed. We mapped out the due dates for each of the different aspects of the program and assigned the tasks. She would implement in her room, administer the assessments/surveys, and I would desegregate the data, creating visuals to present to the school board.
But, at the meetings, she was unprepared and as deadlines approached, and nerves became frazzled. I stressed the importance of her administering the assessments and collecting them. I found myself having to remind her on the days she was to collect data. I assumed the grading of the assessments and continued to desegregate the data from the assessments/surveys. I did this to remove some of the frustration she was feeling.
I believe the less structured attitude towards teaching was also reflected the team role she assumed. I believe her classroom management style prohibited her from completing the required tasks needed for the pilot program. She seldom left her desk chair and was mostly on the computer. And this truly hindered the pilot program.
Even though the student data collected supported success for the pilot program, I learned I could not impose my work ethic onto another teacher. I learned a great deal about teamwork because a team should act as one. In education, we need to work towards group goals, with everyone in the group having an equal opportunity to contribute towards the success of the school (district). Team members will need to have exceptional communication skills to coordinate energy toward reaching the goal of excellence for the students in our district.
4. Describe one student that has had the most significant impact on your career and mindsets surrounding education. What was your relationship with this student? Why did this student have such a profound impact on you?
I recently had a former student live with my family after the death of his mother.
I first met the young man when he was in my sixth-grade reading recovery class. The
Language Arts teacher and I were good friends and she shared an essay written by the student written in response to a writing prompt. It was Christmas time and the essay was related to how he would spend $100 if he had it. Most of the students described how they would purchase the most recent CDs, phones, shoes, etc. But, not this student. He wrote about how his mother was sick and he wanted to use the money to help make her well. I cried. It was just him and his mom. They received public assistance and living in public housing.
This led me to reach out to his mom and ask her if I could take him to eat with my
two children who was the same age as him. She agreed and this began a long-lasting friendship, spanning several years (2003-2011). My children became fast friends with him. We took him shopping for his mother a Christmas gift. My heart was moved because there was nothing under the tree. But, he felt so proud having something for his mom. His mom had dialysis three times a week, often leaving him before dawn. He had to get himself up, dress, and get to the bus stop on time. Sometimes, he would call if she wasn’t back in the afternoon when he arrived home from school, and we would take him food so he wasn’t hungry. There wasn’t a holiday which passed that he didn’t have something to present to his mom (Valentine’s Day, birthday, Mother’s Day, etc.). We also took him shopping for clothes and shoes for himself and provided transportation for buying groceries. Our friendship led her to tell him to come and live with us if anything ever happened to her.
Throughout this time, he remained in my classes. He progressed through Reading Recovery and was promoted to the next grade level. When the military moved us, I stayed in contact with them through friends at the school. When we were transferred back to the area, we went to his mom’s house to visit with them. It was like we had never left. He graduated high school that year and his mom saw him graduate high school. It was our (his mom and mine) goal for him to attend college. When we had been in the area for about fifteen months, we were transferred again.
His mom developed sepsis that September, from an infection in her dialysis port. She couldn’t speak, and he told me he could see the pain in her eyes. She knew he was there but, she was tired of fighting. As hard as it was, they both knew it was time for her to go. And so, he told her it was okay for her to go.
He called me. Scared, because he was now an orphan at eighteen. He wanted to
come live with us. I said, “You don’t even have to ask. Just tell me when the plane is arriving and we will meet you.” And we did. He became a part of our family.
Today, he successfully attends college (3.5 GPA), working towards a nursing degree (to give back) and works full time at a state hospital. He reads voraciously, consuming books for pleasure. He is engaged and living on his own. He still calls me “Ma” and comes for dinner at least once a week. Again, he is successful.
The profound impact is that I know if I can change circumstances for just one child, it impacts the world. This family member, formerly a student, will pay it forward. I know, regardless of a child’s circumstances, children can overcome obstacles in their way, rising above to achieve success in their personal and professional lives. And I know educators play one of the most important roles in breaking cycles of poverty.
4. Describe a time you worked with a teacher to improve their classroom performance. What were their strengths and weaknesses? What did you do to increase their results? What was the outcome?
I worked with a teacher to help her with her classroom performance in meeting specific target growth areas on an improvement plan. The specifics included submitting reports and lesson plans on time. One of her biggest weaknesses was she spent a lot of her time behind her desk on the computer and phone. Her strengths included her relationship she had fostered with her students. They respected her. She also was proficient in her use of various software programs.
The first meeting was an organizational meeting and I provided the teacher with a calendar. We went through the district and school calendars and marked important dates for the remainder of the academic year. We then wrote in the due dates for her lesson plans and grades. I then let her select a day when we would meet each week to review her progress towards her goals. This allowed her to have some ownership.
Next, we looked at the objectives for the term. We looked at the desegregated data from previous state-mandated assessments. We counted the number of times an objective appeared on the test and we sorted the objectives into three categories: high frequency, medium frequency, and low frequency. Using this data, we could identify the state objectives which were the ones she really needed to focus more of her time to ensure her students understood the material. We then mapped out a plan for her objectives to be taught by arranging them on the calendar and “penciling in” the objectives. This was a great visual for her because it allowed her to see how much (or little) time she had to teach for the remainder of the academic year.
I also had her put any personal commitments on the calendar.
Over the course of the next term, we met as we agreed. I worked with her to plan her lessons and acting as a resource for materials, ideas, etc. I suggested she use a weekend to begin planning one week ahead so she wouldn’t have to spend an entire day working on the plans. This would also allow her time to adjust the plans if she needed to do so. I also suggested she spend one afternoon for prepping for the next week. This included running any papers she needed and working on her reports for the administration.
At the end of the term, she had shown dramatic improvement in her organizational skills. She provided 78% of her lesson plans on time. She also was improving in her submission of other reports as required by the administration. We agreed to continue meeting for another term. At the end of that term, she had created a great sub folder with lesson plans with engaging activities. We met over the summer to plan for the upcoming academic year. She has met and continues to meet the goals as outlined in the improvement plan.
6. If you were selected to be a principal, what is your brief vision and goals for your school? What is your vision around involving parents and the community in your work? What would you want your school to be known for?
My vision is for my school to be known as a caring, compassionate school which produces students who are “poster children” for what both the CMSD and the Ohio Department of Education envision Ohio students to be- 21st century learners. These students would be the best advertisement for my school and our district in that they would be prepared to be actively and successfully participating in our global economy. They would be productive citizens who are lifelong learners, contributing to the economy of Cleveland, Ohio and around the world.
The students would have the best models in the educators in my building. Those educators would be focused on the individual child- meeting each student where s/he is academically and elevating the student to the level s/he needed to be. They would consider each student’s learning style while setting high expectations through delivery of a rigorous curriculum. My school would be one where “best practices” were in place for every child.
I would want my school to be known for welcoming both parents and community stakeholders in to see the innovative techniques we were implementing to provide each of our students with success daily. I would want to provide classes for parents to help them hone their job skills to help them become productive citizens. I would want them to be involved in our school with various committees and groups.
I envision a school where the students are safe, and the environment is engaging, ensuring, empowering, and exuding excellence. I envision a school that is inviting and invigorating to the point where our students want to be there every day because they fear what they might miss in the classroom if they weren’t. I envision a school where the whole child is fed- body and mind.
I envision a school where we are changing lives and breaking cycles-one student at a time. I know building this type of school in our community will not be easy and will take time. I know I must build and nurture relationships with all the stakeholders in my school. But, I am not a person who backs down from a challenge and I know how to persevere to achieve the goal before me and my school. I am willing to work the long hours needed to accomplish the merged vision of Cleveland Metropolitan School District, the Ohio Department of Education, community stakeholders and myself to build a transformed school where we will transform lives.