I have had the privilege of working for 33 years in public education. I have served as a classroom teacher, a curriculum specialist/staff developer and, for 27 years, an elementary school principal. I have worked in schools in wealthy communities and schools with high populations of students living in poverty. I have been fortunate to work with children and families from many cultures. I have extensive experience with Latino, Asian and Muslim families. I’ve built relationships with the parents of children with disabilities and been proud of the success that these children have experienced in school. I’ve learned from and about these wonderful individuals and their hopes and dreams for their children. Prior to coming to public education I worked for several years in the criminal justice system providing counseling and support to adult felons. Upon leaving high school I served in the U.S. Army spending 13 months in Viet Nam as a communications specialist.
I began my career in the Evergreen School District in Vancouver teaching 6th grade at Orchards Elementary, a challenging school (high poverty) in northeast Vancouver. After three years I was chosen as a member of the core team to open Hearthwood Elementary School where I taught 3rd & 4th grades.
In 1985 I moved to the Battle Ground School District in the role of Curriculum Specialist. I led curriculum committees and conducted district, local and national training in TESA - Teacher Effectiveness & Student Achievement. I worked with struggling teachers, those nearing probation or dismissal. I have always been proud that each improved and retained their positions – one joined my staff when I became a principal. In 1986 I was chosen as principal of Glenwood Primary School, a Title I school that also housed the district’s ESL (ELL today) program. In 1989 I was honored to be selected as "Outstanding Principal of the Year" by the Battle Ground Education Association based to a great extent upon our work with our diverse population.
In 1989 I was selected as the principal of Emily Dickinson Elementary School in the Lake Washington School District. In my second year in the district the superintendent, Bud Scarr, gave me an opportunity to create an innovative learning environment for kids. With the support of the superintendent, staff and community we made significant changes in the way that education was delivered to children. The school was awarded a grant as part of Project MESH (Making Effective Schools Happen) to bring the concept of inclusion to public schools. We moved quickly from two self-contained classrooms to the full inclusion of these great kids into the regular classrooms of our school. For our work we received the Program Excellence Award from the Washington State Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Children, with and without disabilities, developed friendships that would not have been possible prior to inclusion. We moved to group students in K-6 "families," in which K, 1 & 2 students spent three years with the same teachers then transitioned for 2 years to a 3rd/4th team and finally for the final two years of elementary school to a 5th/6th team. We developed an outstanding theater program and an art studio for kids and parents. We included parents in decision making in ways that had not occurred previously. Achievement was high on state assessments. During my last year at Emily Dickinson I was named "Outstanding Principal" by Region 2 of the Washington State PTSA. And, Emily Dickinson was named one of the “100 Best” schools in America by Redbook Magazine.
In 1994 I moved to Margaret Mead Elementary School, situated in a wealthy community on the Sammamish plateau. We continued to group some students in multi-age classrooms. Margaret Mead housed one cohort of the district’s Quest (gifted) program. During my final year at Mead the school was among the highest achieving schools in our state based upon WASL scores. In 2000 I moved to Alexander Graham Bell Elementary, a Title I school with a large ELL program that also housed the district's largest Head Start program. We worked with and supported children and families from the Fairfax Behavioral Health Hospital. During my first year at A.G. Bell I suspended 28 students for conduct in violation of our school's policies. I am extremely proud that during my final year at the school no students were suspended. This was the result of clear, high expectations for students' behavior, relationships with kids and community, and an intentional plan, the Bell Peace Prize, to recognize and reward the behavior that the staff and community desired from the children. As part of the Bell Peace Prize we developed a program that we named “Heroes, Hopes & Dreams.” With grant support from Microsoft we brought a wide range of diverse individuals (ethnic, cultural, disabilities) into the school to share their dreams with our kids. We also incorporated dance into our curriculum, welcomed America's Foundation 4 Chess into our school and developed and implemented a skateboard program for students. Academic achievement continued to improve as measured by the WASL.
In 2005 I was honored to be selected to open the district's newest school which in a community process was named Rosa Parks Elementary School. The school has a full-time theater specialist who works with teachers to infuse the arts into the academic curriculum in ways that enhance the learning of the kids. Drama, visual arts, dance and song became important components of the instructional program. Rosa Parks has been the recipient of a generous grant from the Laird Norton Foundation to support its work. We worked diligently to develop qualitative indicators to show the impact of the arts on students' learning. Parent support for the program is high, clearly one important piece of "data." The school became a school of choice for parents with children on the autism spectrum. Three research projects have been conducted at the school in an attempt to learn better ways to work with these wonderful kids. One great feature of the school is its ethnic diversity. Kids come from many countries and speak many languages, a true gift to everyone in the school! Rosa Parks is home to many Asian and Muslim families. We worked to learn from and learn about these families and their cultures. We developed a program, the Rosa Parks Courage award, to recognize kids, teachers, other staff members and parents for being nice and working hard. For the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years Rosa Parks was the recipient of the OSPI award for “Overall Excellence” ranking it as one of the highest achieving schools in the state. This is due to an intentional plan to challenge all students to do their “personal best” each day on each assignment supported by weekly, structured team collaboration focused on student achievement data.
In 2010 I was recruited by the Everett School District as principal of Emerson Elementary School, a deeply troubled, challenging school. Emerson is 67% free/reduced lunch and approximately 50% minority. Emerson was in AYP for ELL when I arrived; test results from the 2010-11 MSP showed significant progress for these children. The school is no longer in AYP in this category. I believe that this is the result of consistent, weekly, grade level collaboration specific to the learning of all Emerson students. Additionally, test scores are up in 5 of 7 categories. I am also proud that during the past year we developed a strong Latino PTA that works in support of our teachers and children. Regardless, the Everett district was not a good fit for me. I left at the end of the 2011 school year.
Recently I’ve continued to work in support of children, teachers and schools. I published an article in Education Week, “In Praise Of Teachers” (10/6/11). I have worked with families of transgender children to assist them with this difficult transition in public schools. I am a member of a task force at Educational Tutoring & Consulting (ETC) as they work to revise their program offerings. I’ve taught a high achieving group of 5th graders in my daughter’s classroom at Mark Twain Elementary School studying Mildred Taylor’s Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry. I currently serve as Vice President for Program Development & Operations at Positive Ally, a creative after-school program for children located on Redmond Ridge. I’ve truly enjoyed this work but miss the daily work in schools with kids, teachers and parents. I hope to continue my work of behalf of children, families and teachers.