Kay L. CollinsKay L. Collins
South Elementary School
Brighton School District 27J
Brighton, Colorado

Kay Collins has transformed a low-performing school into a place where, as she describes it, “all students learn regardless of their native language, socio-economic status, ethnicity, or gender.” Collins became principal of South Elementary in 2000. Despite having the area’s highest number of students from homes with limited English skills and the second-highest number from households with limited incomes, last year South Elementary demonstrated the most growth in student achievement of schools in its district. Under Collins, the site received honors in 2004 as a No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School for its academic progress. Drawing on her middle-school teaching experience, Collins revamped the use of school resources and schedules to allow for more effective instruction. She established grade-level schedules with common teacher planning times, pooled paraprofessional staff to work with struggling students, and made content-area teaching consistent across grade levels. Another important area of emphasis during Collins’s tenure has been nurturing a culture in the suburban K-5 school that supports student growth. With her leadership, the 560 students of South Elementary care for and treat each other with respect. “We have created an environment that clearly reflects our beliefs and values about the social development of our students,” Collins says. She received her B.A. and her M.A. from the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley.