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School principal closes achievement gap

Other news: New superintendent, principal improves performance, superintendent joins Puerto Rico relief efforts
Bill Santarsiero is principal of Morris Street Elementary School in Danbury, Connecticut.
Bill Santarsiero is principal of Morris Street Elementary School in Danbury, Connecticut.

Under principal Bill Santarsiero’s leadership, Morris Street Elementary School in Danbury, Connecticut, became one of 30 schools nationwide to earn a National Blue Ribbon from the U.S. Department of Education for closing the achievement gap.

Morris Street’s student population—which is 71 percent Hispanic and 7 percent black—tested in the top 15 percent nationwide in English and math. The school—which had been the lowest-performing in Danbury Public Schools—began making progress when Santarsiero gave more decision-making power to teachers and parents.

Guadalupe Guerrero is now superintendent of Portland Public Schools, Oregon’s largest district. Guerrero will focus on recruiting and retaining talented principals, a task the district has struggled to accomplish. Guerrero also plans to address how certain minority and low-income middle-grade students do not receive effective instruction.

Guerrero recently served as deputy superintendent of San Francisco USD.

Guillermo Pro, principal of Laredo ISD’s Raymond & Tirza Martin High School, has improved student performance by increasing school spirit during his six-year tenure.

Pro created a student band that plays conjunto—Latin American music from Mexico—because nearly 700 of the school’s 1,900 students left Mexico to attend school in Laredo. He also meets with students before classes and grills burgers for students who attend Saturday tutoring sessions.

The percentage of students who passed English on state STAAR assessments has risen from 19 percent to nearly 50 percent in the last six years. In 2016, approximately 85 percent of students passed most STAAR tests. 

Shane Robbins temporarily stepped away from his role as superintendent of Indiana’s Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation in October to join the National Guard’s relief efforts for Puerto Rico. Robbins was stationed in South Carolina at a clinic that treated Puerto Ricans requiring medical care.

Robbins created a team of leaders to manage his duties as superintendent while on leave, regularly checking in on district affairs via video chat.