Schools across the country have opened their front doors over the past few weeks to welcome its students back from a long, hot summer. Parents have checked & double checked school supply lists, communities & business have organized back-to-school drives, & students have meticulously picked out their back-to-school outfits. But even while the media would like to suggest that schools are miraculously prepared for the new school year in a twinkling of the eye, or society offers that confused grimace as they grapple with the understanding that yes, school principals do work in the summer, where are school leadership references in all of the back-to-school hubbub? Where are the Wal-Mart commercials depicting a school principal disaggregating EOG & EOY data while they peruse the aisles for the perfect 1.5 binders? Why doesn’t Staples create an ad featuring magnetic whiteboards as school leaders develop, edit, & revise the master schedules for the year ahead? And where are the McDonald’s jingles about the coffee that gets many a school leaders through the summer district leadership retreat?
In the wake of societal change, educational reform, & national elections it is time for us to begin painting a new portrait of the realities of public education that not only provide the masses with a true & accurate depiction of public education, but we also must work to include the voices & lives of all those involved in the process. Back-to-school is an exciting time for millions of individuals across the United States, however the work & efforts that go into creating optimal learning environments & professional learning communities often goes unnoticed. As a school administrator, my goal is to help shed light on the process of not only opening the school year, but transforming a school as well. Last July, I was honored to be named principal at an elementary school in North Carolina. The process of transforming our school into one of the best places to work & learn has been exttremely rewarding, challenging, & intriguing & our team of esteemed educators is consistently striving toward the mark of excellence for our students.
For the 2016-17 school year, we chose IEJ Cinemas Presents… as our theme which will be infused into all facets of professional development, faculty meetings, & communication with our faculty & staff this year. In order to unveil our theme, we created a movie trailer highlighting the goals, vision, & mission for the 2016-17 school year (check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LN-_sxPe7M) & invited our team to our Academy Awards themed Opening Meeting. We even asked faculty & staff to dress up to compete for the Best Dressed Actress & Actor in an Educational Film to ramp up the excitement & engagement!
When faculty & staff arrived to the cafeteria, they had their photo taken by a professional photographer on the step and see & found their Hollywood star & swag bag at their seats. We opened the meeting by celebrating last year’s instructional accomplishments & grade level highlights as well a brief review of our NCTWC results from March. Following presentations from our Instructional Lead Team, we announced the best dressed actor, actress, & supporting roles before dismissing the faculty & staff into movie-themed sessions. From Freedom Writer, where our Instructional Facilitator laid out the reading & writing pilot for the year to Great Expectations, where administration discussed the handbook, evaluations, & discipline goals it was a wonderful morning spent arming our team with information to ensure that students were successful in the year ahead! Check out the newest video on my YouTube channel below for pictures & highlights from our IEJ Cinemas Presents…Opening Meeting 2016-17!
On Friday, August 26 our district hosted its annual Convocation for all of our county’s school employees. Our school showed up with amazing school spirit donning our new school shirts (thanks PTO!) We danced our way into the auditorium & one of my teachers who is a Hula-fit instructor, wowed the crowd with her awesome hula hoop tricks in time with the music! As the festivities began, the finalists for the Principal of the Year were asked to stand to be recognized. Our superintendent then called one of our school’s former 5th graders to the stage. Through tears & joy, I listened to this young man share his educational journey & highlight his last year at our school. He recounted the mornings I stood greeting each student as they walked through the door, the days working with students to develop their quarterly goals, & even my driving to see our students compete in their recreational sporting events. As he spoke the words, “I want to congratulate Dr. Hemphill on being the 2016-17 Principal of the Year” I was met with screams, squeals, hugs, & love from the best school family in the world! There is absolutely no way that we would have accomplished such growth for our children without their willingness to try something new. There is absolutely no way that we could have created a brand new culture & established positive morale without their flexibility, patience, & out-of-the crayon-box thinking. And there is absolutely no way that I would be Principal of the Year without the BEST SCHOOL FAMILY OF THE YEAR! I am grateful. I am humbled. And I am honored.
The 2016-17 school year is going to be phenomenal for our students, our educators, & our community because we now understand the power of change. Let’s commit to revolutionizing education one school at a time. Let’s change the perception of public education across our hometowns, our state, & our nation. Let’s shatter some molds when it comes to doing what is good for the students who are sitting in our classrooms today. I hope my educational moldmakers will join us on this journey!