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Deborah D. Ollis
St. Mary Catholic School
Archdiocese of Mobile
Mobile, Alabama

Under the leadership of Principal Deborah D. Ollis, St. Mary Catholic School has put in place a strong, varied curriculum that differentiates learning and has also instituted embedded professional development that has been key to school growth. With chal-lenges including a racially, financially, religiously, and academically diverse student population, Ollis put together a team of experts in early childhood, elementary, and middle school to ensure instructional fidelity and eliminate achievement gaps. Ollis meets monthly with the team and their respective teacher groups to oversee baseline testing and create a curricular plan that is introduced in August, reviewed in January, and evaluated in June. The 509-student, prekindergarten through eighth grade school now offers integrated resources which serve students at all levels of achievement; they include science and technology labs, accelerated programs, and leveled core subject and elective classes. A local college partnership has facilitated ongoing, embedded professional development by training staff in guided learning and math with collaborative groups focusing on individual academic plans as a central strategy. With a goal to move toward an inclusive Universal Design for Learning, the school resource program targets special needs such as dyslexia, ADHD, Down Syndrome, Aspergers, and other learning disabilities. Testifying to the success of Ollis’s leader-ship is the fact that the school has grown from two hundred in 2002 to over five hundred students today with a waiting list in most grades. Ollis holds a B.S. in Psychology from Spring Hill College, a B.S. in Elementary School Education, and an M.A. in Education from the University of South Alabama.