By Denise Dick
Using data, visiting classrooms to monitor instruction and building relationships with students are ways principals at four city schools are working to bolster student achievement.
The school board asked the principals of East High School, University Project Learning Center, P. Ross Berry Eighth Grade Academy and Woodrow Wilson Middle School, all of which were in academic emergency on the last state report card, to report on their plans for improvement at a school board meeting Thursday.
Holly Seimetz, East principal, said she and an instructional leader at the school handle instruction while assistant principals take care of disciplinary issues.
Classroom walkthroughs, where the principal evaluates what’s happening in the classroom, occur daily, she said.
Teachers are asked to post learning targets within their classrooms so students know what they’re expected to learn. During the walkthroughs, Seimetz talks to students, asking them what they’re learning and how that could be useful.
She informs teachers of areas where improvement is needed.
“We’re there to help them,” Seimetz said.
Jerome Harrell, Wilson principal, said the school offers tutors in each subject area, and meetings among groups of teachers occur weekly to discuss student data.
Programs launched last year allow parents to go online to monitor their child’s progress.
At UPLC, the district’s alternative school for at-risk youth, Principal Tod Morris said he’s worked to change the message of the school. The school conducts monthly parent meetings, and, rather than suspensions, the school opts for an Education Recovery Classroom where students, removed from their regular classroom, still complete their school work.
“We’re getting away from ‘alternative school,’” Morris said. “We want it to be a transitional school.”
Lisa Gonzalez, P. Ross Berry principal, said she and her staff analyze student data to determine areas where students need help. More small-group instruction has been implemented.
This marks the first year that Gonzalez and Morris worked as principals at their respective schools.
Superintendent Connie Hathorn said he has confidence in the district’s principals.
“When I started here, we didn’t have building principals, we had building managers,” he said. “We have instructional leaders now.”