In the Spotlight: North Carolina Principal Advocates for Student Success
Principal, May/June 2018. Volume 97, Number 5.
Principal/Nations Ford Elementary
Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, Charlotte, North Carolina
- Years as principal: 5
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District Principal of the 2017–2018 Year for the Beacon Community
- Ranked in the Top 10 percent of North Carolina Principals by NCDPI
- Removed Nations Ford Elementary from North Carolina’s Low Performing State List
- Produced the highest growth scores among all Title I Schools in CMS
- Has produced double digit proficiency growth scores for the past three years
- Florida Atlantic University, B.A., Education
- Gardner-Webb University, M.A., School Administration
- National Board Certification, Exceptional Needs Specialist
- Harvard University, Aspiring Principals Leadership Institute
- 870 students
- Grade span: Pre-K–5
- Title I
- 91% Economically Disadvantaged
- 65.7% Latino/Hispanic
- 29.9% African American
- 4.5% Other
- School mission: H.E.A.D.I.N.G. Towards Excellence, Because We Are the BEST!
- Beacon Initiative: School Turnaround District Initiative
- Success by Design
- Personalized Learning
Nations Ford Elementary principal Alejandra Garcia’s overall vision aligns perfectly with the school’s mission of “always believing in growing students.” This notion is the foundation of her success in helping boost students’ performance and positively impacting student culture. Garcia’s plan helped remove Nations Ford Elementary from the state’s low-performing list after a year of implementation.
“The most challenging experience as principal at Nations Ford was coming into a school where the school culture and lack of belief in our students negatively impacted their achievement,” says Garcia. “In order to turn around the school and change the lives of students, I had to build a leadership team who shares my strong belief system for all children.”
Here, Garcia talks about her approach to education.
How the Beacon Initiative ties into the vision to boost Nations Ford Elementary’s performance ranking
The Beacon Initiative provides needed differentiated support to help increase student achievement in 14 schools within Charlotte. The initiative focuses on creating sustainable results through four key turnaround levers: leadership, instructional infrastructure, differentiated support and accountability, and talent management. As a school leader, I believe that differentiating support and consistently advocating for students and staff fosters lasting positive change in both academic achievement and school culture.
How technology contributes to the performance increase and overall student learning environment
Technology has helped leverage our students’ strengths by aligning them to the needs of generation Z. We have been able to create a personalized learning environment where every student has an individualized learning path created specifically to meet his or her diverse needs. We incorporate technology into nearly every lesson to maximize instruction, to foster a diverse learning environment, and to create differentiation for 21st century learners.
Advice for principals who want to create a sustainable system to increase overall student achievement
As a principal of a turnaround or low-performing school, it is imperative that you create a sustainable system to increase overall student achievement; otherwise, the results aren’t lasting, and students suffer. To create lasting positive change, build leadership capacity within your school by developing strong teacher leaders. Invest in and advocate for them every step of the way. Be cognizant of your blind spots and weaknesses, and surround yourself with people who can help you by leveraging their strengths. Lastly, focus on everyone’s strengths, not their weaknesses.
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