It can be very powerful to follow an inspirational and effective leader in carrying out his or her day. Last month as a part of the “Principal for Almost a Day” program, I had the honor of spending (almost) a day shadowing Ericka Guynes, principal of Earl Boyles Elementary School in the David Douglas School District.
Ericka Guynes looks at student achievement goals set by her team at Earl Boyles Elementary.
Ericka’s vision and passion are infectious as she greets every child by name while walking through her school. She leads a staff meeting strong on compliments and kudos for a professional team crossing new boundaries for some of Oregon's highest needs children.
I was thrilled to see the emphasis Ericka puts on empowering her team of professionals to build collaborative solutions, and how the team creates partnerships and relationships with community members to strengthen outcomes for kids. I happened to be there when a SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) leader came by her office to tell her a group of SMART volunteers were ready to come volunteer at Earl Boyles—that definitely brought the biggest smile of the day. Ericka is a leader who understands that success in her field means acting as an instructional coach and resource for her team and creating the conditions where they can co-create a new model that works for the families they serve. The innovation and improvisation that takes place here on a daily basis is dazzling.
As a part of the Early Works initiative, Ericka is leading the team that is implementing preschool for three and four year-olds in a public school setting. The idea is to give children an early boost in on-site preschool so they can succeed in kindergarten. The school is establishing a new paradigm for public education—starting it much earlier and helping kids enter school without an achievement gap. This eliminates the need to spend kindergarten, first and second grades trying to catch up the students that have not been introduced to a daycare or preschool educational setting prior to arriving at public school. Ericka focuses on the steps right in front of her and tends to solve problems locally and organically rather than becoming overwhelmed by the horizon. We can all be grateful that leaders like her are moving us forward to a new place—perhaps a place where every child has a much better chance of educational success because of the early supports they have received.
I want to say thank you to All Hands Raised for giving me the opportunity to participate in the “Principal for Almost a Day” program. PFAD brings leaders into our school buildings and lets them walk alongside courageous and inventive principals like Ericka. Our questions coming out of the experience should be about how we can best support principals and administrators and recognize them and elevate their work because it truly is the critical, on-the-ground work that will improve education for all children in Oregon.
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