Jackie E. McNamara
Cleveland Elementary School
Sioux Falls School District
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Jackie E. McNamaraJackie McNamara heads an urban school where more than half of the students live in poverty and where 47 languages are the “home language” for youngsters at her school. Yet under her leadership since 2007, Cleveland Elementary School students have raised their academic performance high enough that the site made Adequate Yearly Progress for the first time in its history. “Providing the opportunity for disadvantaged students and struggling families to feel success is rewarding and empowering for all stakeholders of the school,” says McNamara. Through a partnership that McNamara established with a church near her Pre-K-5 school of 595, Cleveland Elementary students have received 60 laptop computers. The church also has consistently provided clothing, food, school supplies, and funds for field trips for students in need, and it has supported meals and celebrations for the Cleveland Elementary staff. In creating a student-centered environment at her school, McNamara emphasizes high expectations for students and staff members alike. In hiring and supervising teachers, she makes tough decisions from this premise: “Would I want my son in this classroom?” she says. In more than 16 years as a principal, McNamara has led three elementary schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the Dakota State University in South Dakota, a master’s from the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota, and a doctorate at the University of South Dakota at Vermillion.