Assistant Principal, Foster Elementary, Dallas ISD
At the onset of the school year, I eagerly volunteered to take the lead on student attendance. My interest in the topic was genuine. During the last few months I have collected information about attendance laws, analyzed our internal systems, and developed incentives programs. Throughout this meaningful process, I have grown professionally and personally.
While seeking knowledge about this topic, I have learned to be resourceful and to lean on the experts in the field. In September, I attended an Attendance for Credit training to increase my understanding regarding state and district policies. To further develop my knowledge around absences and tardies, I invited a district truancy representative to our campus to support our attendance team.
Analyzing our own practices and systems brought about additional lessons. I realized that just because you have a system in place for many years, it does not mean that it is effective. After collaborating with both the CRC and clerk on our practices, we identified some inefficiencies that needed to be addressed. After making some modifications to our practices, we are currently preparing to communicate exciting changes to staff and parents after winter break.
Lastly, I have learned the importance communicating an initiative and motivating others to support that cause. In order to bring awareness to the students about the importance of attendance, our team has initiated multiple school-wide incentive programs for attendance. We are recognizing individual students, homeroom classes and entire grade levels each week based on attendance rates.
As we continue to prioritize attendance at Foster, I personally look for to the next opportunity for professional growth.
This year at Foster ES our administrative team purposed to provide significant support to first year teachers, teachers new to Dallas ISD and teachers new to Foster. We developed a comprehensive plan to ensure that these teachers would have support instructionally and culturally. In order to support instruction, Mr. Hall and I scheduled six spot observations and feedback sessions with these teachers in the first semester. Our Instructional Coaches also scheduled multiple visits to support these teachers with planning and engagement practices.
Learning about the various computer programs that we use in Dallas ISD can be extremely overwhelming. Being aware of this concern, we provided additional professional development sessions to familiarize them GradeSpeed, SchoolNet, IStation, RMCity and MyDataPortal. Knowing how to effectively use these systems will save teacher enormous amounts of time.
Building positive relationships with colleagues can be difficult when starting new job. Due to this fact, our new teacher committee agreed to host monthly social meetings to strengthen teacher relationships with mentors, administrators and other colleagues. These teachers have also been partnered with a mentor to address any daily concern that may arise.
We are proud of the amazing work all of these teachers are doing for students. We are thrilled to share that their student achievement data is competitive with the veteran teachers. This is the true measure of success.
The idea of the principal as a building manager is no longer the norm. We are more geared to a model where the principal is an aspirational leader, a collaborator, an instructional coach, and the person who acts as a visionary. However, the building still needs to be managed. In order to allow more time to focus on the former, I would restructure traditional positions and job descriptions so others could manage the operational systems of the school. I would also reassign the duties of testing coordinator. Although local and state testing is important, the amount of time that it takes away from other responsibilities is impactful. Creating a position of an operations manager and reassigning testing would allow assistant principals additional time to focus on teacher development, staff and student culture, parent support and community outreach.
Douglas Burak is the Assistant Principal at Foster Elementary in Dallas ISD. He is a Cohort 4 graduate of Teaching Trust’s Aspiring Leaders Program.