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Movers & Shakers

Florida principal raises school’s state grade from F to C—in one year

Dwayne Copeland was named the 2018 elementary school principal of the year by Florida's Volusia County School District and the FUTURES Foundation.
Dwayne Copeland was named the 2018 elementary school principal of the year by Florida's Volusia County School District and the FUTURES Foundation.

Principal Dwayne Copeland increased Edith I. Starke Elementary School’s state grade from an F to a C during his first year and has maintained that average for three years. Copeland, now in his fifth year at the Florida school, achieved this by creating a PTA and by adding field trips to school offerings. Copeland also hired half of Starke’s current staff, who stay after school every day trying to increase test scores, funding and campus safety. Copeland was named the 2018 elementary school principal of the year by the Volusia County School District and the FUTURES Foundation.

Superintendent Nancy Sarra has made changes to 11 administrative jobs in the Consolidated School District of New Britain, a struggling Connecticut district that has had a flat budget for two years and has gone through 10 district leaders since 2011. The move eliminates one administrative position and adds lower-paid staffers, which saves $120,000. Sarra is also shifting assignments for 90 teachers and revamping class schedules. Additionally, she will add STEAM classes in response to recent low student-achievement results.

Superintendent Kirk Koennecke of Graham Local Schools, a rural district in Ohio, has utilized Graham’s remote location by creating a high school club that manages more than 22 acres of commercial farmland and a dry creek bed for ecological projects. He also formed an outdoor learning lab with a prairie area, a retention pond and a green house. Additionally, the district adopted a Lean Six Sigma program, a collaboration with 30 community organizations that includes career days, job shadowing, internships and apprenticeships.

Superintendent Robert Williams has brightened the financial outlook for Hattiesburg Public School District over the past three years. The Mississippi district, which once had less than $800,000 in savings, has now reached its board of trustees goal of keeping 12 percent of revenues in reserve. Williams set aside money in anticipation of state cuts, and he also budgeted revenue above expenses, hired full-time substitute teachers at lower rates, left vacant administrative positions and monitored monthly expenses.