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John J. Decker
Mellette Elementary School
Watertown School District 14-4
Watertown, South Dakota

The opportunity to share his experience and expertise with pre-service teachers, his own continuous professional growth, and a highly effective intervention model are among the significant accomplishments of Principal John J. Decker of Mellette Elementary School. As a resource for teacher development programs at Northern State University and other colleges, Decker has coached future teachers by serving on advisory panels and placing pre-service teachers within his own school to benefit from his ongoing guidance. Modeling ongoing professional growth for his staff, Decker has also played an active role in developing the district’s own unique administrative and teacher evaluations. This process allows Decker to examine the best criteria in creating master teachers and gauge his own work against the highest standards of principal proficiency. Decker says that the common language now shared among all stakeholders has led to deeper dialogue, better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of staff, and an ability to plan for more efficient professional development. Among the programs the staff now uses is Marzano’s Instructional Strategies for the Differentiated Classroom. Decker also counts the implementation of an effective RTI program as a rewarding accomplishment. Targeting kindergarten through third grades, the program uses para-educators, Foster Grandparents, educational psychologists, Title I teachers, and classroom teachers; it has successfully moved nearly 100 percent of students out of progress monitoring by the end of each year. Watertown’s superintendent terms Decker an “outstanding role model for other professionals,” and one who is always learning and growing. Decker holds a B.S. in Education from the University of South Dakota and a M.A. of Educational Administration from Northern State University.