Julie Scott, Principal of R.L. Wright Elementary School, describes being with students as her fuel. Her vision for the school is to be a safe learning environment where every student feels special and know they have caring adults on their side. During her four years at R.L. Wright, she has maintained a fierce commitment to establishing collaborative relationships. Her desire to build rapport extends past the principal-staff relationship to include principal-student, staff-staff, staff-student, principal-parent, school-parent, and school-community relationships.
Upon accepting the job in Sedgwick, Principal Scott met with every staff member and other school organization members. Through these meetings, she gained insights into understanding the staff and needs within the building. Right from the beginning, building teams and collaboration was her focus. By introducing protected Professional Learning Community (PLC) times, R.L. Wright formed collaborative teams. To build team spirit, teams went on scavenger hunts through the community while gaining trust and building rapport. The leadership team even went to an escape room. In addition, she also created a learning community for paraprofessionals. During these monthly meetings, paraprofessionals receive additional training and support to better serve the students.
Every decision Principal Scott makes goes through three lenses. First, “What is best for students?” Second, “How would I want this handled for my child?” The final lens is two-fold, “What will the best teachers think/how will this affect others?” When these three lenses are clear, then she knows she has made the best decision possible for the school.
In 2019, Principal Scott led the creation of R.L. Wright’s Family Activity Building (FAB) to build a school community. The FAB leaders include nearly every adult (the principal, counselor, teachers, and paraprofessionals). Each leader has students from different grade levels. The members of a family stay the same from year to year except for the addition of kindergarten students and the loss of former sixth grade students. Adults and students who, would not normally interact, spend time together and develop a bond through shared monthly activities. Additionally, FAB provides every student one consistent adult contact their whole elementary career.
Principal Scott also created a Principal Advisory Team (PAT) for fourth through sixth graders which meets weekly. Through the PAT, she gains input from students while building long-lasting relationships. The team has made many suggestions and ideas to make the building “feel” more student friendly. For example, they helped pick out benches and quotes for the walls of the school and suggested painting murals throughout the building.
To address the needs of students and the community, under Principal Scott’s leadership, R.L. Wright launched their full-day Cardinal Kids Pre-K program for four-year-olds in 2020 to promote early learning. The program increased opportunities for early learning for 20 at-risk and non-at-risk children. R.L. Wright also launched Cardinal Connect, an after-school program for students, and Cardinal Boost tutoring program twice a week to focus on reading and math. In the 2021-22 SY, Principal Scott, in partnership with a neighboring district, established Parents as Teachers. Parents as Teachers provides parents with the skills and knowledge they need to help make informed decisions regarding their child’s education. The program includes personal visits, group connections, health, vision, hearing, and developmental screenings, and supports family connections with other community services.
When the school improved playground equipment twice, Principal Scott decided to try a “community build day,” rather than having the company install the equipment. Both times, not only did students and staff help, but families, pastors, and community members, who had no true connection to the school, helped install the equipment.
Principal Scott creates a schoolwide theme for each year and purchases t-shirts for staff to wear on designated days. In addition, she started Morning Community. The entire school meets in the multipurpose room for daily announcements, the Pledge of Allegiance, and hears upbeat music as they walk to class with their teacher.
In her tenure of four years, Principal Julie Scott has been transformational to R.L. Wright Elementary School. She has been a breath of fresh and innovative air. Her vison has brought staff together to better serve students and create a positive learning environment that fosters each student’s achievement.