Dallas ISD Rising: Proven educator leading Dunbar Learning Center to next level

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When Paul L. Dunbar Learning Center Principal Alpher Garrett-Jones started setting up for the school year’s first Parent Teacher Association meeting, she fielded questions on why they should set up so many chairs.

After all, only three people signed in for the PTA meeting the previous school year.

But Garrett-Jones, who previously served as the longtime principal at Charles Rice Elementary School—which many consider one of the best schools in Dallas—made parental involvement a top priority after taking over the campus this year. And by the time the PTA meeting kicked off with giveaways, student performances and a special talk with former Dallas Cowboys player Charles Haley, nearly 170 parents and family members had filled the room.

“You have to get parents involved in their child’s education. I’ve seen firsthand how it makes all the difference in the world,” Garrett-Jones said. “We are building trust among our parents, and they are seeing the changes happening here with their own eyes.”

Garret-Jones took over as principal at Dunbar Learning Center as it became part of the “ACE Leadership” model aimed at boosting student achievement through a strong focus on developing teacher leadership. The program incentivizes top teacher leaders, principals and campus leaders to study leadership, curriculum alignment, data and other best practices. They then apply these practices to improve teaching and learning on their campuses.

District to expand ACE program to boost struggling schools

“Strong leaders and effective teachers are the key to any school success. We are excited that through the ACE program, we can reinvigorate schools such as Dunbar to reach greater success for students with outstanding personnel,” said Jolee Healey, the Dallas ISD assistant superintendent who oversees the ACE program. “Through the ACE leadership model, we are focusing on learning and transformation by building expertise at all levels to ensure success is sustainable.”

While Dunbar Learning Center got off the Improvement Required list this school year, Garrett-Jones is focused on taking the school to the next level. The campus this year started offering extracurricular activities such as choir, dance club and chess club, and is partnering with the Frazier House and Boys and Girls Club to bring in after-school programs to the campus. As part of the ACE Leadership Model, Garrett-Jones was also able to recruit excellent educators and campus leaders.

“It is not a quick or simple process to transform a school, but we are well on our way here at Dunbar Learning Center,” Garrett-Jones said.

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