How to Be an Effective Leader
As the ‘Effective Leader’ of Greenleaf Elementary I had the vision and determination to move the campus to EXEMPLARY status—and then make it happen.
Principal Judy Jones of Greenleaf Elementary School in Splendora, Texas, turned an Academically Unacceptable school into an Exemplary school in just one year. She did it the same way she ran her classroom—with
Positive Expectations, and
An Effective Principal
Just as an effective teacher creates a well-oiled machine of a classroom, a school that is managed effectively becomes a well-oiled factory for success.
Judy Jones was a very effective classroom teacher and moved into administration. She became so effective at what she was doing her superintendent asked her to step in as principal at Greenleaf Elementary, a PreK through 4th grade school in Splendora, Texas, that was in dire need of her expertise. The superintendent gave her one year to turn a school rated Academically Unacceptable into an Exemplary one.
Judy, who loves a challenge, grabbed her copy of The First Days of School and jumped in!
On her first day on the job, Judy resolved, “I’m going to run my campus the way I ran my classroom as a teacher with similar procedures, routines, and being consistent. If I was an ‘effective teacher’ then I can be an ‘effective principal,’ too.”
Right there in her empty office, Judy says she sat down on the carpet and began rereading The First Days of School—only this time, from a principal’s perspective.
Judy says when she started out at Greenleaf, “The scores in every subject area were dismal and staff morale was at an all-time low. Discouragement and a sense of failure permeated the school climate.”
She set out to create an environment where daily and consistent positive reinforcement was used in every classroom. She showed teachers how to work with their students to set positive, high expectations for themselves.
Judy set positive, high expectations for her teachers, too. She asked her teachers to take time every day to reflect on their teaching techniques. It would be a time to acknowledge what was working with their instruction and would be an opportunity to make the changes necessary so all students could learn to the best of their ability.
A positive attitude fills the halls of Greenleaf Elementary School. Everyone is always smiling and giving hugs or pats on the back. Judy’s motto is, “Smiles are contagious!” Manners and courtesy are reinforced daily and consistently. Judy believes the best way to teach is through example. So students and faculty alike say “Please” and “Thank you,” hold doors open for each other, and show respect to their peers.
The atmosphere at Greenleaf Elementary quickly changed. Teachers began using affirmations in the classroom. Judy says, “We all shared the goals that we could pursue life through cooperation, love, and happiness throughout the day, respecting each other, and having a good attitude.” Students and faculty began to feel confident, positive, and ready to tackle anything.
A Consistent Start to the Day and School Year
Getting everyone informed and on the same page was the first order of business for Judy. She made sure necessary information was accessible to everyone. Classroom schedules were color coded and posted next to every door. Greenleaf Elementary School Rules and the district-wide Bully Prevention Rules were posted throughout the school and even on school buses. The first edition of a weekly newspaper, the “Greenleaf Gazette,” was printed in Spanish and English and distributed via the Internet. Hard copies would be sent home in weekly take-home folders. Bulletin boards were set up and would rotate monthly with schoolwide themes.
Along with the Greenleaf Elementary School Rules, Judy set up a discipline plan with positive and negative consequences to be consistent schoolwide. Signs were posted throughout the school, in halls and classrooms, letting everyone know the expectations.
Judy understands that in a classroom, procedures are the key to running a well-oiled machine. Judy says, “I believe as a parent, consultant, and leader you just can’t live without procedures. I have observed over the years so many people not using procedures and routines that have caused havoc in their lives . . . when it would have been so simple to organize the procedure and explain ‘how’ it should work and ‘why’ it should work and then implement it.”
Every day at Greenleaf begins with the Student Council welcoming car riders and their parents with a “Good Morning” and a smile. Student Council members are also asked to help monitor hallways and bus drop off areas.
Meanwhile, Judy greets students in the front hall. The counselor is stationed at the front door, welcoming students, and the assistant principal helps to monitor the bus drop off area. Everyone, of course, has a smile on their face!
At 8:15, the school serves a Universal Breakfast to every student. Research shows that a child will retain information more readily when the stomach is full. Since many of the students at Greenleaf Elementary come from underprivileged families, the Universal Breakfast ensures all students are starting the day off nourishing their minds and bodies.
At 8:30, the Morning Announcement is made. When the loudspeaker comes on, everybody—students, faculty, visitors, custodians, even the district grounds keepers—stops and listens to the announcements.
The Morning Announcement at Greenleaf Elementary includes
• Pledges to the American flag, the Texas flag, and the Bully Pledge
• A Spanish word for the week
• A positive quote
• A character trait
• A math word of the day
• A moment of silence
Then everyone synchronizes their watches and the day begins.
At the end of the day, Greenleaf has a very specific set of procedures for getting every student home. Between the many buses, car pick-ups, and PreK program, Judy doesn’t lose a single student! Click here to read the procedures for their End of Day.
Improving Test Scores
Every fourth grader at Greenleaf is required to take the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). In the 2006-2007 school year, Greenleaf students scored between 72% - 79%.
This past school year, students were scoring between 95% - over 99%.
How did they do it? By organizing the school and classrooms with procedures so there could be maximum instructional time with the students. Making every minute count, a focus on instruction was offered beyond the classroom. Numerous programs were undertaken before, during, and after school:
• AM/PM Tutorials—45- 60 minute help meetings before or after school
• Lunch Bunch Tutorial—help for any student struggling academically
• Adopt a TAKS Student—non testing teachers helping students who are struggling
• Benchmarks (Practice Tests)—approved practice TAKS test given and run just like
the day of the actual TAKS test
• Attendance Awards—rewarding showing up in the classroom
• Reading Counts—reading and computer testing based on points for accumulation
• Study Island—a web-based program to improve skills in Math, Reading, and Science
Greenleaf Elementary was a PreK-4 campus in 2006-2007. After Judy’s first year at the school, the demographics changed in the 2009-2010 school year to a K-6 campus. Even so, they continued to make growth even with the addition of the district’s bilingual program and the 5th and 6th grades. The highlighted test results show the progress after Judy’s first year with the staff.
Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) Scores
Greenleaf Elementary School
Judy says, “As a professional principal, I am always learning and growing.” She firmly embraces the saying, “Beg, Borrow, and Steal.”
Judy encourages her teachers to practice “BB&S,” as she calls it. For her staff to be effective and successful, Judy knows they need on-going professional development. Instead of holding faculty meetings, her staff meetings are professional development meetings. Here, teachers share what’s working and not working in their classrooms and borrow ideas from each other.
During each meeting, the staff watches a clip from The Effective Teacher video series. They then break into teams to discuss what they observed. New and seasoned teachers talk about how these techniques can be implemented into their classrooms. If a teacher has been using one of the procedures or routines mentioned, they share how it feels to be “Harry Wong effective!”
Juan Hernandez is a first grade bilingual teacher at Greenleaf Elementary School. He was born and raised in Venezuela. He came to Greenleaf with a background in engineering.
Juan says, “I was in a situation where the kids were in control of the classroom and that made my teaching and my personal life, a daily challenge.”
Judy saw Juan struggling in the classroom and immediately stepped in to help. She facilitated ways for Juan to “BB&S” from other effective teachers at Greenleaf. Juan was given the opportunity to observe more seasoned teachers. He began to see what an effective teacher does consistently in a classroom.
Juan developed the procedures and routines that would work for his students. He taught them and rehearsed them. He quickly understood how important it was to tell students beforehand what will be expected of them, both academically and behaviorally. He says, “The difference is unbelievable and I realized that it is all about the procedures.”
For the first time in his teaching career, Juan was teaching instead of fighting behavior problems all day long.
“I was actually getting some sleep at night and more importantly I was enjoying teaching,” says Juan. When Juan started his second year of teaching this year, it goes without saying that Juan implemented procedures and routines from the very first day of school.
Juan says, “For me, the phrase ‘I truly believe that you can be an effective teacher’ encouraged me to improve every day. It is a long journey for a new teacher to become as effective as it should be, but now I know that I am headed in the right direction.”
Creating an Exemplary School
“Yes, our campus did make it to EXEMPLARY in one year,” says Judy, “and we couldn’t have been as successful if it hadn’t been for consistency, procedures, and routines.”
Using Larry Lezotte’s Correlates of Effective Schools one can easily see the areas to develop to change any school into an effective school.
• Safe and Orderly Environment
Greenleaf implemented schoolwide procedures, a schoolwide discipline plan, and
district-wide Bully Prevention Rules.
• Climate of High Expectations for Success
The morning announcement routine established a positive atmosphere for learning.
• Instructional Leadership
Faculty meetings changed into staff development meetings—all for improving the
teachers’ effectiveness in the classroom.
• Clear and Focused Mission
Everything done at Greenleaf was to elevate the school to exemplary status.
• Opportunity to Learn and Student Time on Task
Programs were offered before, during, and after school to extend classroom learning
and time in the classroom was maximized with procedures so there was more time to teach.
• Frequent Monitoring of Student Progress
Progress monitoring was used to determine learning objectives students did not master;
students were regrouped for further instruction and progress checking.
Every Child; Every School
Greenleaf is a shining example of what can be for any school, any student—from Academically Unacceptable to Exemplary in the course of one school year. Judy Jones is an instructional leader who uses the research of effective schools and makes it happen at her school. She practices her “BB&S” to bring what works to her teachers and her students.
As a first year teacher, Juan commented that it is a long journey to become an effective teacher. Juan does not realize he will never reach his destination. Effective teachers are never satisfied with their success. They know they must remain at the top of their game to help students reach their potential.
Effective principals are the same. Their schools will always be evolving and changing to meet the diversity and needs of all students. They must remain at the top of their game creating an environment for teachers to help students reach their potential.
Judy has created a factory of success at Greenleaf Elementary School. And the potential of those products, the students, are limitless as they’ve been given the tools to flourish and have been proven on tests that they can and will succeed.
InputEffort OutputSuccess Final ProductHope for Tomorrow
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