Union's Roy Clark Elementary honored nationally; teachers credit school's principal Theresa Kiger
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
5/02/12 at 7:01 AM
Read the full Principal Perspective report.
Back when Theresa Kiger became principal at Union's Roy Clark Elementary, teachers there spent nearly as much time breaking up fights as teaching.
Student absenteeism was high. Morale was low. And hope was fleeting.
Within a decade, Clark Elementary was named one of only three 2011 National Community Schools.
And those who know her say Kiger is the reason.
"She is an amazing leader. She inspires us every day," said third-grade teacher Courtney Kime.
Under Kiger's watch, Clark became a community school in 2005, providing a web of support and resources to improve the academic, emotional, physical and social development of its students.
According to a recent report by the National School Boards Association's Center for Public Education, principals are second only to teachers in their impact on student outcomes, especially in schools with large numbers of poor and minority students.
"A school principal is now more than a head disciplinarian or a glorified schedule-maker," said Jim Hull, the center's senior policy analyst who researched and wrote the report. "The principal of today's school is a leader."
A successful principal creates a more effective teaching staff, shares leadership responsibilities, has a clear sense of instructional goals and gives teachers ongoing, informal feedback and support, he wrote.
Kiger embodies those characteristics - strong leadership, longevity and passion.
"She truly wants to help these kids," Kime said. "She will do whatever it takes to help them. And she inspires us as teachers. This is not just a job. This is a lifestyle."
In a school characterized by high poverty and a large minority population, Kiger and her teachers took on the battle years ago to break down barriers to student achievement, such as lack of food, health care and mental health services.
"It takes a long time," she said. "Things do not happen overnight."
When Kiger arrived at Clark, teachers were paying heating bills and buying groceries for students' families. Kiger took those things off their plates so teachers wouldn't be stretched thin.
She reached out to nonprofits, corporations and philanthropic groups to help.
"It's all about building relationships," Kiger said. "I tell that to other schools and to teachers coming in. You have to understand that we're all different. And you have to be willing to build relationships with your families, whether you agree or disagree with how they are living their life or raising their child.
"We're going to come to a common ground and we're going to build up. We're going to help the child and we're going to help the family."
Clark once had a high level of turnover among teachers, but Kiger changed that too, said Kime.
"Everybody loves working for her. She listens to your concerns and works with you to come up with a plan," she said, adding she was one of 14 teachers Kiger hired six years ago. "Almost all of us have stayed. Nobody wants to leave."
Today at Clark, the halls are electric with student enthusiasm and learning. Reading and math scores are dramatically higher. Parent-teacher conference participation is at 100 percent.
"In essence, a community school is about educating the whole child, and the family and the community," Kiger said. "You're raising up the whole community and helping it grow and flourish."
Principals who are highly effective are more likely to:
Source: The Principal Perspective report, Center for Public Education
- Have more than three years of experience overall
- Have at least three years of experience at that school
- Share leadership responsibilities, rather than just delegate paperwork
- Have a clear sense of instructional goals
- Give ongoing, informal feedback and support toward those goals
- Conduct unannounced, informal teacher evaluations or classroom visits and give feedback afterward
- Have school boards and superintendents who exhibit a clear vision of what constitutes a good school and create a framework that gives principals both autonomy and support to reach those goals
Clark Elementary's accomplishments
Source: Union Public Schools
- Increased daily school attendance to 96 percent
- Decreased chronic absenteeism to 1 percent from 9 percent
- Increased state test scores for all students in reading and math to 1217 from 799
- Increased state test scores for English Language Learners (ELL) in reading and math to 1190 from 313
- Increased state test scores for students on individualized education plans in reading and math to 1,054 from 263
- Increased adequate yearly progress (AYP) ranking to above the state average
- Increased number of students eating breakfast to 100 percent from 25 percent
- Increased fresh fruit and vegetable school snacks to 100 percent and healthy after-school snacks to 70 percent
- Increased parent-teacher conference participation to 100 percent from 68 percent
Original Print Headline: Leadership helps students prosper
Kim Archer 918-581-8315
Principal Theresa Kiger sits in on a class lesson with first-grader Breanna Valdovinos at Roy Clark Elementary School last week. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Principal Theresa Kiger reads with first-grader Marlo Alexander at Roy Clark Elementary School last week. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World