When Diane Jackson became Principal of Tigerville Elementary School in 2011, she ignited a powerful impetus for change and reform that the school had never experienced before. One of the first things she did was to share the school’s and students’ ranking and performance scores with staff and create a sense of urgency that the school had to improve its expectations and performance with no excuses. Principal Jackson developed a unique and innovated vision, set a goal to become one of the highest performing schools in the state, and formed a strong leadership team of teachers, the media specialist, and support staff. Student failure was not an option and, to that end, Principal Jackson established high expectations for every child and staff member.
Principal Jackson exemplifies a student-centered, goal-oriented, and data driven approach to improvement. The concepts of differentiation and responding to every students’ unique needs guide Tigerville’ s instructional practices, educational planning, and allocation of resources. As a former teacher and instructional coach, she has a firm grasp of instructional and pedagogical best practices and models these with teachers and students in small reading groups.
As Principal Jackson said recently, “We have an ‘all-in’ philosophy.” Every adult in the building understands and has internalized Principal Jackson’s high expectations. They are committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure student success.
One example of Principal Jackson’s focus on meeting the needs and maximizing the potential of every student is the “needs board” in the data room. The needs board is broken down by grade level and by content area within each grade level. The board contains the name of each student who is struggling in math, English language arts, science, social studies, behavior, or social skills. The list is fluid and is updated each Tuesday at grade level meetings with teachers and administrators. As students’ names appear on the board, measurable evidence-based interventions begin. The board also includes the names of high-performing students who require more challenging academic content. In addition to being beneficial to general education teachers and administrators, the related arts staff, resource teacher, school psychologist, speech therapist, and interventionists also use the board to help guide decisions, interventions, and collaborate with the staff. In addition to school-wide small group interventions, all students in grades three through five receive small group instruction with their classroom teacher and another staff member. Principal Jackson used the district’s flex funding allocation to hire an additional certified teacher and an instructional specialist to work in small groups and individually with students at all grade levels throughout the school day. As a result, the school is better able to meet the needs of all students, including high- and low-performing students through differentiated instruction.
Principal Jackson has successfully engaged the residents of a nearby residential community in a school/community partnership. This partnership was an integral component of Tigerville’s transformation. The residents, mainly retirees, support Tigerville educationally and financially. Principal Jackson arranged for training of the residents as weekly tutors and mentors using the school’s curriculum and instructional materials specific to each students’ needs and achievement levels. Through the residents’ support, Tigerville created a Smart Table lab so every student has access to devices. The residents also have purchased jackets, shoes, food, and Christmas presents for students in need.
When asked to describe herself as a leader, Principal Diane Jackson would use terms such as, honest, direct, fair, consistent, learner, and visionary. These words are traits that guide all her decisions and interactions whether communicating with students, faculty, parents, or community stakeholders.
Since 2011, under Principal Jackson’s leadership, Tigerville has undergone a sea change in school culture with lasting impacts on both student success and community perception.