Sunnie W. Barkley
Olive Branch Elementary School
Desoto County Schools
Olive Branch, Mississippi

Sunnie Barkley has brought an emphasis on data analysis to Olive Branch Elementary since she became principal of the suburban pre-kindergarten through grade 1 school in 1998. After observing that the school lacked comparative data on student achievement on which to base instructional decisions, Barkley led Olive Branch teachers to use nationally normed measures of academic progress in their planning. This initiative enabled teachers to more effectively customize daily classroom instruction to student learners. For example, four days a week, students at each grade level are now grouped for instruction in specific reading skills based on teachers’ analysis of the academic data. Barkley also has created a positive climate at Olive Branch Elementary by recognizing and rewarding good conduct. Faculty members and the 619 students alike can earn gold slips for demonstrating desired behaviors. “We are more focused on ‘catching each other doing good,’ rather than focusing on those who break the rules,” says Barkley. On Fridays, dressed in a costume reflecting the discipline program’s “Wannabee” theme, Barkley travels around the school with a cart of small prizes to award to those with gold slips. Barkley previously served for seven years as assistant principal of Olive Branch Elementary School. Beyond her school duties, she has mentored several other principals in her school system. She earned a B.S. and an M.Ed. from Memphis State University in Tennessee.