For area principals, school leadership begins with vision

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 30, 2009

By David Vitrano


LUTCHER – Principals from across St. James Parish recently gathered with educators from other parishes in Southeast Louisiana to examine ways in which their students might be better instructed.

Spearheaded by the School Leadership Center of New Orleans, the all-day session started with walk-throughs at two St. James schools, Gramercy Elementary and Lutcher High.

While taking part in the walking tours, the administrators got to see first-hand some of the techniques being implemented in St. James Parish.

The process provided a hand-on learning experience for the principals.

“I learned the do’s and don’ts,” said Harry Francois, principal of St. James High School.

Francois said he hoped to take what he had learned to improve his students’ performance on standardized tests.

While he acknowledged his students are not doing poorly in the tests, he said his goal is to raise the percentage of those students attaining mastery level so his school’s performance score could break the 100 mark.

“Our focus right now is pushing the higher order thinking skills,” he said.

After a break for lunch, the group reconvened at the school board office in Lutcher for a presentation from Ann Van Sickle, a retired educator from the University of San Diego.

Her presentation focused on training the administrators in techniques that will bring the best out in teachers and students.

“If we don’t know what strong teaching and learning look like, we can’t lead it,” she said.

The afternoon session consisted of a PowerPoint presentation from Van Sickle interspersed with opportunities for the principals to engage each other and share ideas.

One of her main points was school administrators should have a clear vision of what they want from their students and teachers.

“If we hold a clear vision of what we want our students to know and be able to do … we can teach that,” said Van Sickle.

At the end of the day, the principals seemed eager to take what they had learned back to their respective schools.

Vacherie Primary and Vacherie Elementary Principal Julie Dauzat said she was eager to take what she had learned from both the walk-through and the presentation back to her schools “to create meaningful learning for students.”