Wednesday, January 18, 2017

3 Things a Principal Can Do in the Next 4 Years

I have been asked to share a vision for a school tonight. I am going to share three things I think a principal can do for any campus that will foster student growth and bring joy to the community at the same time.

The first thing principals can do is support classrooms to foster student growth. As a teaching/learning community that means we principals need to listen well- observe the ins and outs of the challenges our staff faces every day. We can watch and support through making changes that make teacher's work easier. If there are unnecessary barriers to their work- we remove them. I once met a teacher in her room during break and she said, "Dr. Roth do you know that I only see my entire class for one our on Thursdays?" See our master schedule was set up to put all these programs on during Thursdays (Art, Orchestra, PE) and things like Math and reading were pushed to the side. As a principal we took this problem to a teacher group who helped adjust our schedule the following year.

We listen because it helps us support. We plan professional development that teachers can use the next day- training that helps them foster student growth.

The second way we can positively impact the campus is to Increase Collaborative Density. When schools operate like a group of independent contractors they fail to produce the best program for students. Only when we create structures that pull out the awesome ideas within the school- and help them spread... only then do we bring the best for our students. I love it when schools are united in meeting the challenges in front of them. Little things like using one problem solving process throughout the campus (learned that from Katie Wisdom at Ridgeview) can go a long way towards developing academic momentum. I saw Mr. Barth teach an awesome lesson on critical thinking- which would be even more powerful if other subjects and grades were using the same tools he shared with the students.

The third thing we can do as principals is Magnetize the Campus. Find relevant and meaningful ways to attract people to your school. We created a Young Author's Conference at our school. Students worked to produce books and then had a chance to display that work in front of external audiences- like a convention. The students were joined by professional authors in the local area and could interact and be inspired by them. We magnetized the campus! Parents were talking about the writing the students were doing for a year after that... and it is fun too.

These are three things a principal could do to impact the culture of their schools in the next 4 years- I guarantee this will inspire the next generation.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Shared Classroom

Joy, wonder, discovery... growth.
That's what I would feel when I walked into Mrs. Stewart's kinder class. Sometimes I didn't even know where the teacher was... she was sitting on the floor next to a student group.

Or there is the time when I walked into Mrs. Robert's class and heard a debate- in 2nd grade- on whether the kid should step on the ant or not...

Or there is the time when I walked into Dr. Classen's counseling office and watched a smile grow on the face of one of our most troubled young men as he was playing a game of mini-pool and discussing how to deescalate.

Everywhere I go- I can find it. A classroom that has conditions that create student joy and ownership.

One way to grow student performance is to develop your relationships. Can they feel like they are a part of the system? Do they have a meaningful voice? Are they important? Do they get more stage time- more opportunities to shine than the teacher?

Some ideas I have seen:

  • A Class Mission developed with students- reviewed each morning by student leaders 
  • A Class Dashboard with data marking the main things (Math, Reading) so everyone buys in
  • A meeting where the goals and strategies are developed collaboratively
  • Daily review of the class's ability to work towards the goals (led by students)
  • Student-created lessons on a standard
  • Student-led vocabulary activities (groups create the most sophisticated sentence with the word)
  • Choice boards/ student data folders (Hope Folders)
You want to see the achievement gap disappear? Build a strong shared classroom where students are looking at the data- setting goals - helping design the pathways for work- and reflecting on their progress. YOU will see results. I have.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Why Every School Should Have a Veteran’s Day Celebration

As a principal I believed there were opportunities, natural dates in our calendars, in which we could work in altruistic lessons. Veteran’s Day was such an opportunity. Our children wrote speeches and poems, decorated cards and baked cookies. They had an opportunity to shine. We want children to grow all around. Well rounded in the artistic aspects of being human… in the athletic aspects… and in the altruistic aspects. 


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Leave No One Behind

I can't tell you how powerful the military philosophy is to me. "Leave no man behind."
When you promise things like that- it provides purpose. When a superintendent shakes your hand and says, "I promise not to let you fail." It brings expectations up in your heart.
When you tell students that they are the most important things in the universe- you better discipline, teach, and invest in them with love, love, love.
Whatever it takes.
Life purpose. 
You will grow under my care at all cost.
You will develop skills and competencies to succeed as you get older.
Heart and mind, character and academics. 
It is the actions that follow your promises that show integrity.
I'm surrounded by students who show my heart and actions were aligned and THEY demonstrate what loving leadership can do.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


What a day.
I resigned today. 
Family first.
Deep emotions. 
Vera- I hope your looking down with pride... I strived to make your name great in Colorado Springs.
We created new programs like STEM.
We loved students with our character programs and Capturing Kids Hearts.
We impacted vets and first responders with the voices of our children. 
We inspired writers with a Young Author's Day.
We built a new plaza for teachers to use, cleared the gym from lunch duty, brought art into our building and created a technology rich school.
We built a team approach to learning and massaged in the next generation competencies.
We loved ALL our children like they were our own.
Hundreds of memories.
Thank you 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Be The Inspiration- through our STEM work

This morning I popped into the STEM class. I was inspired by a couple of 4th graders and their subject... They were learning about Nobel Prize winners. (It's a goal of mine to graduate a Nobel Prize winner.)
I learned about Gertude Elion... She created medicines that helped children survive Leukemia. She started a company so we looked it up.
What we discovered was amazing.
The company has a mission: "We are a science-led global health care company on a mission: we want to help people do more, feel better, live longer." 
Our district says we are preparing students for a world yet to be imagined... At Scott Elementary that happens every day. Students interact with global companies that are shaping the future. These students are inspired to be difference makers like the Nobel Prize Winners they are studying.
I love it. (Written on 9/8 but it didn't post)

Friday, August 19, 2016


As I visited classrooms yesterday I found a story was developing. It went like this: in Snow White there was a mirror that answered questions. This morning, like every other morning, someone at Disney asked, " Where is the happiest place of them all?" The mirror said,"Vera Scott Elementary!"
Why? Two main reasons. We have an amazing staff that builds caring relationships with students. They bring the awesomeness to our school. 2nd- our students. They are taught to show empathy and kindness. We believe in developing character traits here and this will build our community for several years to come!