Top 3 Things to Find Success – From the Principal of Chesterfield Academy
1. Organizational Success Tools
I am entering my second year as principal at Chesterfield Academy Elementary School and my eleventh year as a school principal with Norfolk Public Schools. I was asked to take over Chesterfield Academy Elementary School, an urban, inner-city school, last year because the school was classified as a “Focus/Priority School” by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). A school is classified as a Focus/Priority School because achievement in the core content areas are significantly below state standards. My other significant challenge was that Chesterfield had significant staff turn-over. Most of the instructional staff had left. I was not only tasked to bring the scores up but to rebuild the staff and get everyone focused toward a central mission. First, I outlined and developed Organizational Tools to set Chesterfield Academy Elementary School up for success.
I met with success at my previous school, Oceanair Elementary, utilizing the above “Instructional Framework” chart and putting a laser-like focus on teacher planning time and monitoring of the instructional program. It took several years to get the right staff in place, analyze and fine tune the data, and align the instruction to the needs of the students. I departed Oceanair with the school at Full Accreditation by VDOE. I was very proud of that achievement. I could not have done it without the team effort of all the staff at Oceanair. During the restructuring phase at Chesterfield, I created a Leadership Team which consisted of a Reading and Math Specialist, Reading and Math Title I Teachers, Assistant Principal and Principal. Together, this extremely talented team determined that the restructuring efforts should focus on maintaining consistency of staff, expectations, policies, and procedures; finding leaders from within and building teacher and staff capacity; and building positive relationships with all stakeholders. Below outlines the work of the Leadership Team.
2. Finding Leaders from Within the Organization
From the principal’s point of view, there are so many things to do and be responsible for on any given day. To get everything done, I realized that I must share leadership with the talented staff at Chesterfield. I was fortunate enough to be able to hand-pick my entire dynamic leadership team who supported my vision and were ready to assist me with our mission. The district was afforded the opportunity bring in a lead turnaround partner, Focused Schools, who continued to assist me with developing an instructional leadership team (ILT). They provided training to the ILT which consisted of grade-level chairs, and prekindergarten through fifth grade teachers. The ILT also consisted of special education and resource teachers. After receiving Focused Schools training, the ILT was responsible for sharing professional development with rest of the staff. This process was received well and Chesterfield will continue to build teacher leaders so that the school will be able to sustain and implement the strategies learned regardless of leadership changes.
3. Development of an Instructional Focus
The Leadership Team completed a comprehensive needs assessment which revealed Chesterfield’s overall weakness: Reading. The team viewed Standards of Learning (SOL) data (4-Year Trend); STAR Reading and Math Data; Common Formative Assessment Data; and District Benchmark Data to determine strengths and weaknesses. This information was then shared with the ILT to begin the work of developing an instructional focus for the school. The professional development provided by Focused Schools was extremely helpful in organizing and setting the tone for doing the work of developing an instructional focus. The final outcome of ILT work is reflected in the image below.