Principal at E. Texas School honored with award

Mrs. Sandy Jones, principal of West Side Elementary School in Jacksonville
Mrs. Sandy Jones, principal of West Side Elementary School in Jacksonville

Released by U.S. Department of Education:

JACKSONVILLE, TX - In honor of her exceptional work as a principal, Sandi Jones will receive the Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership at the 2010 Blue Ribbon Schools Awards Ceremony today in Washington, D.C.

Principals nominated for the Terrel Bell Award are school leaders committed to fostering successful teaching and learning. They help their students meet high standards and have demonstrated that when it comes to educating America's children, failure is not an option.

"Under Sandi Jones' leadership, West Side Elementary School has thrived," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "She supports her teachers and believes in her students' potential, and that has lead to great achievements in the classroom. Test scores are going up, and these kids are more confident in their capabilities. Her enthusiasm is contagious. Sandi truly cares for these students and has given each one of them the opportunity to receive a high-quality education."

When Sandi became principal of West Side in 2007, the school already did a good job of providing instruction to a challenging student population. Close to 90 percent of West Side's students are eligible to receive free or reduced price lunch, and over half are English Language Learners. With over 90 percent of students scoring proficient or better on state assessments, most students were excelling. Some would have been satisfied with such statistics, but true leaders, like Sandi, are not. Since she assumed the role of principal, West Side's students have continued to improve, and last year nearly 100 percent of students in all grades and all subgroups scored proficient or better.

Good leaders inspire and empower, and Sandi is no exception. Prior to becoming principal, Sandi taught kindergarten and served as campus librarian and as instructional strategist at West Side. She attributes these experiences to her collaborative leadership style. Under her direction, district staff and teachers describe a supportive atmosphere that focuses on strengthening relationships, creating effective teams and challenging all stakeholders in the school community to focus on success. Sandi works closely with her staff, sharing her knowledge and offering guidance as needed in order to help everyone meet their goals.

Sandi has faced several challenges since becoming principal. Among them was an achievement gap between English Language Learners and the other students. To address this problem, Sandi has implemented daily interventions. During these opportunities, students receive targeted, small group, individualized instruction. Groups and interventions are data-driven, and Sandi works with administrators, content specialists, teachers and paraprofessionals to address student needs.

Recently, Sandi also worked to establish West Side as a "No Excuses University," promoting college readiness that begins in pre-kindergarten. Thanks to Sandi, West Side has already manifested a positive culture, and adopting the goal for all students to attend college is a natural extension. Under the program, teachers build student interest in college, host alumni, introduce college vocabulary and instill a belief in students that their future is bright and full of wonderful opportunities.

By empowering everyone, Sandi inspires the members of the West Side community to take a self-directed role in education. Sandi challenges the community to meet and exceed her expectations every day, and she works hard to meet and exceed theirs.

Mrs. Sandi Jones is an outstanding school leader who inspires, guides and sustains others; she is a leader willing to do whatever it takes to meet students' needs. She shows that with effective leadership and teaching, and a conviction that all students can learn, schools can become powerful, joyful places that generate energy in their communities.

The Bell award is given by the U. S. Department of Education, together with the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Middle Schools Association and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. The award recognizes outstanding school leaders and the vital role they play in overcoming challenging circumstances. Principals are nominated by their school communities during the final stages of the Blue Ribbon Schools application process. Terrel H. Bell was the secretary of education under President Reagan.