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Camita M. Dillon
Otken Elementary School
McComb School District
McComb, Mississippi

In three years, Principal Camita M. Dillon has transitioned the struggling, high-poverty Otken Elementary School from a designation of failing, to academic watch, to success. At the first through third grade school, which serves 779 children, 100 percent of students are on the free and reduced lunch program. “I wanted to increase their academic abilities to help ensure their success later in life,” says Dillon. In the six years she’s been at Otken, benchmark test scores have increased yearly by double digits, earning Otken a Champions of Change Title I Distinguished School Award from the Mississippi Department of Education and an Administrator of the Year award for Dillon from the McComb District in 2013. In 2012, Dillon partnered with the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color to create the Boys of Distinction program, hiring six positive male role models to perform interventions and teach boys how to be productive members of society. Test scores increased and negative behaviors decreased. This year she created a Ladies of Distinction program to perform the same services for girls, recruiting retired teachers, church members, grandparents, and community members to assist. To keep parents involved, Dillon sends home parent-friendly reports, a weekly newsletter, and uses an online parent portal and Facebook to provide individual and community news and tips. McComb’s superintendent praises Dillon’s “relentless ability to succeed,” and colleagues credit her as the catalyst for transforming the school culture. Dillon holds a B.S. in Elementary Education and an M.S. in Educational Administration and Supervision from Jackson State University.