Dallas ISD Principal of the Year awarded to four top-tiered administrators

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The Dallas Independent School District has announced its winners for the 2015 Principal of the Year award. This year the district named the four winners for 2015 Principal of the Year during a special ceremony on Dec. 9 at the Dallas Market Center.

Julie Singleton of H.I. Holland Elementary School (elementary), Tracie Washington of Billy Earl Dade Middle School (secondary) and Nakia Douglas of Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy (magnet/special programs) were named the top principal in their respective classifications.

In a surprise announcement, one of the finalists was selected as voted by their peers for the “Principals Choice Award.” Tanya Shelton of Lagow Elementary received the additional award, presented to the Dallas ISD principal that has been a positive influence and example for their fellow principals.

The winners are all rated in the top three tiers of the Principal Excellence Initiative. There were four elementary level finalists, two at the secondary level, and three from magnet and special programs.

The 2015 Principals of the Year event was sponsored by West and Associates LLP, Axa Advisors LLC, Fisher & Phillips LLP, and Vincent, Lopez, Serafino & Jenevein PC.

Here are details on the winners:

Julie Singleton, H.I. Holland Elementary School – Singleton has her staff and students laser-focused on college and career readiness. Every hallway of the Oak Cliff campus is decked with college banners, each door displays a college theme, and teachers sport their college attire weekly. At fifth grade, students are introduced to the college application process, and the school hosts a monthly College Café where students explore the majors and features offered by various colleges.

Singleton says Holland’s success is based on promoting positive relationships with staff, practicing respect, increasing trust, and filtering every decision through the lens of what’s best for students. Such practices helped the campus move from low performing in her first year as principal in 2013 to a status of met standards with three distinctions in 2015.

Singleton’s supervisor, feeder pattern Executive Usamah Muhammad-Rogers describes the turnaround at Holland as “remarkable” and calls Singleton “a hard-working visionary who leads with courage and tenacity.”

Tracie Washington, Billy Earl Dade Middle School – Washington has an unwavering commitment, as a transformational leader, to ensuring that all children will learn by any means necessary. She has taken personal ownership in building a team that fosters an atmosphere in which all scholars embrace the importance of college and career readiness.

Otha Stewart, a longtime teacher at Dade Middle School, said he has been amazed to watch how Washington has turned around the school, which has seen upheaval and controversy in recent years.

“Mrs. Washington’s dynamic leadership enabled this immense change to take place,” Stewart said. “She graciously accepted the opportunity of taking the lead of one of the most challenging schools in the district and transformed it, even before the students reported to the campus.”

Nakia Douglas, Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy – Douglas is focused on the holistic development of the school’s students. His campus works on each of the district points of distinction: student engagement, family/community engagement and college and career readiness.

Assistant Principal Michelle Neely said Douglas leads by example and makes himself available to all students.

“Mr. Douglas is the consummate professional, and everything he does is to ensure that we, as a school, are developing young men into impactful leaders through the development of their intellectual, moral, physical, social, and emotional development for the global society of tomorrow,” Neely said.

Tanya Shelton, Richard Lagow Elementary – Shelton believes that the ability of educators to fully engage students is paramount to student success. This explains why Shelton strives to ensure that teachers inspire qualities in their students such as attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion. From professional development to evaluation of student data, she looks for evidence that teachers and learners are making meaningful connections. When that happens, she believes that teachers are not only better able to assess students’ level of understanding, but can also quickly adjust instruction to better reach students.

To expand her staff’s leadership skills, Shelton shares responsibilities with her Campus Instructional Leadership Team, involving them in planning professional development, observing and delivering feedback to new teachers, and serving as mentors—all with the goal of increasing the quality of instruction.

Shelton’s willingness to share her expertise, coupled with her practice of decorating to make the building more welcoming, hand-writing notes of appreciation and holding events to celebrate staff successes, prompted one teacher to declare that “she not only makes Richard Lagow a great place for kids to learn, but she has made it a great place to work.”

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