Loyola University Maryland

Center for Innovation in Urban Education

UNITE Founders Visit Loyola

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On Saturday, January 18, 2014, a small group of UNITE members joined with the founders of UNITE, Kate Kloepper and Chase James, to view and discuss the PBS documentary The Principal Story.

 Kate, Chase, and Loyola UNITE Executive Board

The Principal Story follows two Chicago school principals: Tresa Dunbar at Nash Elementary School and Kerry Purcell at Harvard Elementary School. Dunbar focused on the individual teachers devoting time to working one-on-one with faculty members to ensure they have the support needed to succeed in the classroom. Similarly, Purcell provided her faculty with the resources to succeed. Both principals work to form relationships with faculty and students. 

After the film viewing, UNITE members split into four groups and discussed different topics: data analysis, culture of the school, family involvement, and community engagement. 

Of the two schools, Harvard Elementary School focused more on data and the numbers of each student (test scores, class rank, etc). The group discussion centered on whether or not having the students know their numbers was beneficial. In other words, should students only be focused on the data? 

Family involvement is an important aspect of a student's school life and often positively impacts one’s success. In the film there was a significant difference between family involvement in the two schools. One reason to account for this difference was a lack of support. Specifically, the principal did not have counselors or social workers to help build relationships with families. Therefore, she was left to do it all on her own. 

The culture of the school is the atmosphere of the building. The principals of both schools made it a priority to know the names of each child in the school. Both principals continually said, “I love you” to the children and teachers. The effort to build relationships dramatically impacts the success of the school and of the children. 

The groups who discussed community engagement talked about how in both schools the principals understood how crucial it was for the faculty to be involved in the students’ home lives. The principal of Harvard Elementary even went as far as making home visits to every one of her students’ families. This made the families more involved in their children's education.

Written by UNITE Secretary Laura Holston.