Five Years Later Sandy Hook Still Hurts

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Since I was born in October of 1987, over 250 school shootings have been reported. From elementary schools to state colleges, school shootings have been something that has occurred every year in just about every month in each year for the thirty years I have been alive. Some are more deadly enough to make the news and garner national attention and some are small where no one is killed. April of 1999 is when the mass shootings in school took on entirely different light.

The date was April 20, 1999 and it was Littleton, Colorado and the school was Columbine. Two students opened fire on their classmates, killing fifteen and injuring twenty one. It was one of the deadliest mass shootings in history in a school and it dominated television. I was twelve years old, but I remember hearing about the shooting. It wasn’t until I was a little older that I fully understood the impact Columbine had. It was sad, but I did not understand it too much; however, December 14, 2012, I do remember more vividly.  Even though it’s five years later today, it still hurts. This was Sandy Hook.

Sandy Hook hurts even today because for me it hit close to home. I was young in my career at when tragedy struck. I remember receiving the alert on my phone about breaking news. I clicked the link and was floored by what I read, which was a gunman had opened fire on a school. It was an elementary school that was home to babies as young as five years old.  All I could do was pray. When I arrived home that evening and watched the news, it was then I learned twenty six people from the school had been killed. He killed four adults and killed twenty first graders between the ages of six and seven. Just like that, their lives were snatched from them. When I think this five year later, the pain remains. How could something like this happen to the most innocent of victims?

These kids should be in 6th grade today enjoying life as middle schoolers instead of being buried. The parents who never expected to bury their children should be buying Christmas presents for them and taking them to get pictures with Santa Clause instead of visiting a gravesite. This year it hurts me because five years later, I am a principal of an elementary school. I have first graders. I have sixty of them and I look forward to five years later seeing them in middle school. I look forward to ten years later seeing them in high school. I look forward to them going to prom one day, getting married and having their own kids. I look at them and see the future, a bright future full of promise. This was the same bright future and promise that was snatched away that December morning five years ago from twenty children.

It still hurts for the survivors. It hurts for the teachers in the building who would have been privileged enough to teacher those students during these five years. Now, there are twenty less students to walk the halls and hear laughing and see playing at recess. The teachers who lost colleagues are still in pain. Then, I think about the pain of the students who lost classmates, most of them too young to understand, but to they have to live with sounds of gunfire and screams in school. The image of dead classmates on the floor is something that will haunt them forever. Their innocence was taken away that morning and it is unfair. I think about the parents of those victims. I am not a parent, so I can’t imagine their grief. I can’t imagine the pain they felt receiving that call about a shooting at the school. The school is supposed to be a safe place. That safe place was violated that December morning.

On this day five years later, I say to the Sandy Hook community that you are in my heart. You are in my thoughts and prayers. This day comes every year and hopefully each year the pain lessens a little. Those twenty six people will never be forgotten. Their memories will live on forever. I hope you find time on this day to remember the smiles they left on everyone faces.

On this day Five years later let us not forget the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary:  Richard D’Avino, Dawn Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Leigh Soto, Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Dylan Hockley, Madeleine Hsu, Catherine Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, Ana Marquez Greene, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler, and Allison Wyatt.


 

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David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Three Tips to Help Teachers Survive the Week before “THE BREAK”

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As the calendar turns to the second week in December, there are still roughly two weeks left until the end of 2017. For teachers, time is winding down until “The Break.” Everyone who has been a teacher knows what I mean about the “The Break.”  There is a fall break in October that is typically a tease and then there is Thanksgiving Break in November that is actually more work with cooking and traveling; however, December is home to the “The Break.” When this week is over, teachers finally have a chance to truly exhale. The first eighteen weeks are finally in the books. The first semester is over, right in time for the snow to help you relax. Right now, teachers are thinking about all the shows they are going to catch up on. The books they have been putting off reading because they have been grading and attending school events. Some teachers are thinking about the beach and spending winter break in a warmer location than Indiana. While all that sounds good, remember there is still time left before “The Break” begins. Here are three tips to help you survive the week before “The Break.”

Tip #1 Do not talk too much about “The Break”:

As the anticipation and the build increases, it is easy for the teachers to do activities with their students over plans for the holiday break. That just builds anticipation and everyone loses sight about the time left before break. Teachers must keep things business as usual. Even though we are in December, we still must treat this as though we have a month to go.

Tip #2 Do Not Let Up:

Trust I know exactly what you are thinking. You are thinking about how you are five episodes behind on This is Us and you can’t wait for the break to catch on the tear jerking stories of America’s favorite family, The Pearsons. Remember, before you get to the Pearson Family, you have young energetic students to worry about. This point in the year is when teachers let up. They allow students to tip back in their chairs, run up to the line heading to lunch, allow a little more restroom breaks throughout the day, and they play a lot more Go Noodle for brain breaks. Continue to go hard and be that stickler you were back in September about procedures to help keep the focus on academics.

Tip #3 Remember there is still a second semester:

First thing you should do is before you leave for “The Break” is to take down all those seasonal decorations. Remove the snowman and Santa Claus that is posted next to the turkey from Thanksgiving you left up. Pull down all the snowflakes and replace that green and red construction paper.

January marks a new season and new adventures. If you have time to complete some lesson plans for second semester before you leave, you will have less work when you return.  The worst thing is to come back from break having to take down decorations and feverishly trying to piece together lesson plans. January marks a new year and a new semester; give yourself an easy start!

 

These tips are meant to help. I have lived both sides. I have lived on the side of not utilizing these tips and regretting it and I have lived on the side of taking this advice and thriving after the “The Break.” People might not remember how you started in August, but they always remember how you end in December.

 

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David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Lebron James Is Opening a School and That Is a Good Thing

By Erik Drost [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Erik Drost [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Andrew Pillow

Being one of the better passing small forwards in the league, LeBron James has recorded more than his fair share of assists on the court. According to this latest news, he’s going to start racking up assists off the court too.

LeBron James plans to open his new “I Promise” school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. According to LeBron, opening this school was one the most important things he has ever done:

“Besides having three kids and marrying my wife, putting my mom in a position where she never has to worry about anything ever again for the rest of her life, this is right up there,” James told media. “Championships, MVPs, I mean points, rebounds, and assists, that stuff if whatever. But for me to be able to open up a school and give back to my inner city, so many kids that I know because I was those kids.”

While this move is positive, there are some people in the anti-school choice movement who criticize any “non-traditional” school format. Here are a couple things to put those people’s fears at ease:

1.    It’s still a public school

Unfortunately, I have gotten accustomed to having to say this in regards to charter schools. However, this school actually is a public school. This school was created “in partnership” with LeBron James’s foundation.

2.    LeBron James has a really good track record

For as maligned as James is in sports media, he has virtually done everything right throughout his career. If you ignore “The Decision” then you essentially have nothing negative to say about him. Even if his TV special rubbed you the wrong way, you have to admit there are very few character issues to worry about with LeBron.  No criminal record, or off the court issues what so ever. He had never even been ejected from a game until a couple of weeks ago. If his personal life is any indication, we can expect his school to be on the up and up… which is perhaps the biggest complaint about the non-traditional school models and celebrity “foundations” in general.

3.    Having his name attached to the school matters

Some people dismiss anything celebrities do as tax write-offs or vanity projects. In many cases that may be true. However, given the fact that LeBron James is a very public figure with aspirations after basketball it stands to reason that he wants this school to do well. Such a powerful ally often comes in handy for an institution.

For example: I bet this school won’t have trouble finding money for new technology. I bet they won’t have trouble finding guest speakers on career day. Given LeBron’s popularity with the youth, I bet they won’t have problems finding students that want to attend either.

LeBron James’s school is probably not a panacea to completely fix or even overhaul the Akron public school system. However, it is hard for me to imagine how the youth that attend I Promise wouldn’t benefit from having such a powerful ally. LeBron James opening this school is a good idea, and I hope that this encourages other well-off celebrities and sports stars to take a more active role in their own communities.  

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

My Child’s a Senior; Now What?

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Like many senior parents, I am so proud of all of my children's hard work through high school. I also find myself sometimes overwhelmed with the senior year to do list and two eighteen year olds who have an ever worsening case of senioritis.

If you are a parent of a high school senior, and like myself find the to do list a little overwhelming or confusing, here is a good starting point:

SAT/ACT

If your senior has not taken the SAT/ACT already you can register at collegeboard.org for SAT test registration and www.act.org for ACT test registration. Many colleges use these test scores not only for admission consideration, but merit scholarship awards. If your child is a 21st Century Scholar or the testing fee is a burden for your family, contact your school counselor for fee waiver information.

FAFSA

If you haven't already, sit down with your student and file your FAFSA. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application is always free at fafsa.ed.gov. The application opened October 1st. You don't need to wait on 2017 tax information, 2016 tax information should be used to complete this application. Those who don't feel like they qualify for federal student aid should still fill out the application because many colleges use the information for other sources of financial aid.

Go

If you have a college bound senior start visiting campuses where they would like to attend. If you have a student looking to attend a technical school locally, go check it out. Ask a lot of questions. I know there were some college campuses myself and my children were pleasantly surprised by when we visited and others that my children just didn't care for.

College Applications

Make sure your senior applies to a variety of colleges. Let's face it; they may not get into their first choice. College admissions has become so much more competitive than I remember. It's good to have more than one option.

Don't let the college application fee keep your senior for applying to a college they would like to attend. Call the admissions office to see if your family qualifies for fee waivers.

Consider Other Options

Let’s be honest; college isn't for everyone. If you have a senior who has decided college is not for them, begin to help them look at other options. Now is the time to help your senior explore local technical school, apprentice or military options.

 

So while you are navigating ordering cap and gowns, scheduling senior pictures, planning open house, suffering through senioritis, and helping your senior decide where they will land next, don't forget to enjoy your senior. In a few short months, life will be different for both you and them.

 

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Cheryl Kirk

Mrs. Kirk is a married mother of three children, 16-year-old twins and a 9 year-old son, who all currently attend private school on a voucher. She is a Gary, Indiana native but has lived in Indianapolis for many years. While trying to provide a quality education for her children she met many obstacles and became determined to access the best education for her children. Cheryl is a licensed practical nurse and has worked in home care, hospice, long-term care, and is currently the clinical director for an assisted living facility.

Breaking the Mold: Shining Light on the Black Female School Leaders in Indianapolis- Orleta Holmes

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“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.”   Khalil Gibran

 

 

When you are a young teacher, you latch onto other teachers who inspire you and motivate you to be the best version of yourself. Earlier in my teaching career, I had to opportunity to work alongside an amazing educator. We worked together at Thomas Carr Howe Community High School. TC Howe was formally an IPS school, but was taken over by the state of Indiana and given to Charter School USA. She was one was of the most dedicated educators I had the privilege to be around. Even four years later, I have yet to meet an educator quite like her. We started a student council program. I remember vividly working into the wee hours of the morning one day going through 100 senior transcripts after realizing when the school was taken over from IPS that many of our seniors were at risk of not graduating. It was that commitment to her students I remember the most. Even though we have gone our separate ways on our education journey, I still consider her a friend and early inspiration for the kind of educator that I want to become. This week’s edition of Breaking the Mold: Shining Light Black Female School Leaders in Indianapolis, I want to celebrate Orleta Holmes, Assistant Principal at Phalen Leadership Academies at IPS School 103.

Orleta Holmes is the Assistant Principal at Phalen Leadership Academies at IPS School 103. Born in Evansville, IN and raised in East St. Louis, IL, she graduated from William Henry Harrison High School and attended the University of Kentucky and West Virginia State University where she majored in Psychology and Education.  She has earned a master’s degree from Walden University studying in Education with an emphasis on Curriculum and Instructional Management.

DM: What inspired you to become an educator?

OH: My grandmother, Ollie Mae Sargent, is my continued inspiration to remain steadfast in the field of education.  She marched and protested to show East St. Louis, IL their marks of injustice within the structure of education during the Jim Crow Era.  My grandmother told me many stories of her being mauled by police dogs and pepper sprayed because she marched to receive books at the school she taught in.  She would also express to me she received death threats for being a teacher that went above and beyond to ensure education took place for all children within her neighborhood.  

Her fight and passion opened my eyes to how important education is for communities to flourish.  Because of the path she paved, I am able to stand firmly and passionately as an educator, continuing her legacy and fight for freedom.

DM: How has your experience shaped you as a school leader?

OH: My personal experiences have helped me learn how to be a passionate voice for those who have no voice while listening with compassion to policy makers in order to gain strides for each school I have worked in.  As an African American woman leader in this field, I have been called names, demoted, and even fired simply for being an advocate for my scholars and families.  I have been passed for promotions due to my color, age, and gender and these real and very troubling experiences simply push me to be even greater.  I have learned the fight for equality was not just in my grandmother’s era, but continues today and I become an even better opponent because of these positive and negative experiences.  I am a lifelong learner and I will not see the change I expect unless I am willing to be the change I expect.  I continue forward with my head high and my integrity intact until my scholars and their families experience a future we all can be proud of.

DM: Why are you so passionate about education?

OH: I, just like several of the scholars I have the privilege of educating, experienced trauma at a very early age.  Due to my mind being preoccupied with my personal experiences, I did not feel education was something I needed to focus on and I could not read.  When I was in the second grade my teacher, Mrs. Lee, would not allow me to sit silently answering the bare minimum during learning.  She saw something in me I was afraid to see in myself at the time.  Because of her diligence and her taking a small, but necessary step in my life, I learned to read.  She stayed with me after school each day of the week until I was on grade level in my reading.  This very small step meant the world to me and because of her, I finally saw the importance of education put to practice.  I knew I was meant to change the lives of the young the way she and my grandmother imprinted change within me.  These women, my mother, and my ancestors are the reason my passion burns deeply and will never waiver.  Education is power and I tend to give that power to our youth in urban and underprivileged communities.

DM: This series about is about black female school leaders. Did you have any black female school leaders that served as mentors to you while you were a teacher?

OH: I can note one woman in particular I looked up to and took great notes from who was a school leader, Mrs. Tijaunna Tolliver.  She was a principal in Evansville, IN and a close family friend.  Before I met her, I never knew a black female leader within a school building.  She taught me how to speak my mind without offending the majority.  She showed me how to remain steadfast even in difficult situations.  She and her daughter, Aleesia Johnson, have been black women I have looked up to within this field.  Their poise and professionalism continues to make change on a political and school level.

DM: Why do you feel there is such a lack of black female school leaders?

OH: This career choice is a difficult one for women of color.  We have to break through the barriers that are given to or handed to many of our men counterparts.  Many black female school leaders are only in those positions because they knew another black female leader who was willing to give them a chance or they worked alongside great network.  I have also noticed that black female school leaders do not get paid as much as their male counterparts.  These barriers and lack of compensation make it difficult for young women with the passion of education to become a part of this field and stay to make significant change.

DM: What advice do you have for other black female teachers who hope to be school leaders one day?

OH: My advice to other black female teachers would be never quit!  Don’t stop at the “no” continue to try until you find someone who will say “yes.”  You are enough!  You are not hateful and your voice counts.  We are all hoping to hear it.

DM: Tell me about your current school? What is it that you want our readers to know?

OH: I work at Phalen Leadership Academy @ School 103.  We are the first innovation school in Indianapolis and we have had the privilege of educating the scholars that were said to be one of the worst.  Before our partnership with IPS, the elementary school was Francis Scott Key at 103 and was known for being one of the most violent within the state.  It took an entire year to change the culture and shift the conversations of the youth, the parents, the community, and the staff coming into the school.  I was in charge of shifting that culture and because of the work and passion of the team I have the honor to work with, Agnes Aleobua (Principal) and countless strong educators who don’t have a capacity to quit, we were able to, in two years, have an A school.  

Many policy makers, the Glick Foundation, the Mind Trust leaders, and countless other partners walk into our building and see the change we have made and impact of growth we have had within the community.  I am proud to say that our A was based on growth, which means, our scholars are growing and catching up with the State.  We will soon surpass the State and will be noted as a trailblazing school, one that others run to for assistance.

DM: When you retire what do you want your legacy to be?

OH: I came, I saw, I took action and made significant change for the better, and that change continues forward even while I rest.

 

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David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Weekend Education Links (12/10/17)

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Winter Break Option: Winterlights

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Arguably the roughest weeks for teachers are the weeks between Thanksgiving break and winter break.  When the school bell rings on the last day before break, students have two weeks to spend at home with their parents.  For parents, the thought of having their children at home for two weeks might bring anxiety.  Yes, parents want to spend time with their kids, but when they are at school there is a nice schedule of activities for them to complete and topics to learn.  When children are at home, the responsibility of scheduling the day falls to parents. Throughout the next several weeks, I plan to highlight options, free and for a fee, parents can take advantage of during the winter break with their children.

Last Thursday, my husband and I took our boys to Newfields (formerly known as The Indianapolis Museum of Art) to stroll through Winterlights.  Winterlights is open from November 19, 2017-January 8, 2018 in the evening at five and seven.  Below, I have included some tips and highlights for this wonderful event.

Buy tickets online

It is best to purchase tickets online because they are cheaper than purchasing at the door.  Ticket prices online for children 6-17 are $12 and adults are $20.  Waiting until you arrive hikes the price $5 for both children and adults.  Children five and under are free.   If you are members of Newsfields, like we are, ticket prices online are $8 for children 6-17 and $15 for adults.

The other reason to purchase online is you can guarantee a spot on the day you would like to attend.  If you follow Newfields’ Facebook page, many times all tickets have been sold before the event begins that day.

Attend midweek at 5 p.m.

To avoid the crowds, it is best to attend midweek.  If you are attending midweek with children, the earlier 5 p.m. time is best.  Our boys are six and in first grade.  Although they may claim they are not sleepy late in the evening, their crankiness says otherwise.  Large crowds sometimes frustrate children and it may be hard to snap a photo on other days with so many people around.

The other benefit of attending at 5 p.m. is seeing the lights during daylight and viewing the lights as the sun goes down.  You won’t be able to view that contrast during the 7 p.m. show.  

Warm up in the Lilly House

Although there are wood burning warming stations throughout Winterlights, you can also warm up while touring the inside of the Lilly House.  A great place to take a photo is by the fireplace or on the staircase.  One of the Lilly House greeters was kind enough to take our photo.  My boys enjoyed me reading some of the signs to them inside of the house.  You can also purchase an item at the Lilly House Christmas Shop.

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Snap a photo under the Kissing Arbor

The Kissing Arbor is another good place for a photo opportunity.  Our kids didn’t see the point of Mom and Dad stopping for a kiss, but they did also want a picture under the arbor because in their words, “It’s looks so cool.”

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Enjoy a warm beverage or snack

Beside stopping inside the Lilly House or standing in front of a warming station, you could enjoy warm cider, cocoa or s’mores.  Adults can have their cider or cocoa spiked.  

Dance like nobody's watching

Out of the four of us in our family, three of us are introverts and my one son is a proud extrovert.  Our proud extrovert is known for randomly dancing in public.  He was overjoyed to see children and adults dancing to the music.  Even though I typically don’t dance in public, I may have swayed side to side.  In the words of my son JB, “Just dance and have fun.”

From our boys: 

JJ:  It was cool.  I liked how there were lights on the tree and the decorations went all the way down the tree.   The lights turned different colors.  Every time something happened with the song, some of the lights stayed on and some blinked off.  It was a fun time.

JB:  I liked the music and I liked how the colorful lights were moving and changing with the music.  I also liked the picture that showed how that one part of the Lilly house changed (over time).  There was this one picture I liked (in the Lilly House).  When you look at one side, there is one picture and on the other side, there is another picture.

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If you are looking for an opportunity to spend quality time with your children during winter break, I highly recommend Winterlights.  FYI, Winterlights will be open Christmas, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. 

Check out my previously featured Winter Break Option:  Indiana Chinese Lantern Festival.

 

Partners in Education: Keana Parquet

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Education professionals know the task of shaping children’s futures can be  difficult yet rewarding. The hours are long and they don’t end when students go home and some educators go home to another educator.  This series aims to highlight dynamic education duos who find a way to balance being immersed in the world of education at school and many times at home too.  

Keana Parquet is the principal of Crooked Creek Elementary School in the Metropolitan School District of Washington Township. She believed she would always be a classroom teacher, but someone saw leadership potential in her and cultivated it.  Prior to becoming the principal of Crooked Creek she was also a teacher and assistant principal in this same school.

Shawnta Barnes:  Who inspired you?

Keana Parquet:  My parents inspire me and they are also educators. My dad was a professor at Notre Dame and my mom was an adult ESL teacher. My parents had three biological children and adopted four multiracial children.  They held us all to a high standard and education was always high on the list.  All of us graduated from college.  I try to instill the same values they had in my two sons and the children at Crooked Creek.

The other person who inspires me is Marsha Reynolds.  She was principal when I was hired as a teacher at Crooked Creek.  She saw me as a leader when I didn’t see it in myself.  She recommended me to Butler's administration program.  She has a way of seeing in people what they don’t see in themselves and coaching people to reach their potential.  I aspire to coach people like her.   

SB:  How has being adopted shaped you as an educator?

KP:  I was born in Korea and lived there until I was almost seven.  I was adopted and raised by a Caucasian family.  I think I can relate to people because of my diverse background.  For college, I attended a HBCU and that was a huge culture shock for me as a person, but those experiences built this vast diverse background that I have.  I can code switch and navigate different spaces.  After I married Eric, I was able to travel to Korea and meet my biological mom.   

SB:  Describe an adversity you had to overcome as a leader.

KP:  An adversity I had to overcome was becoming the leader of the school where I had previously taught.  I went from being the neighbor in the classroom next door to being their principal.  The hardest part was coaching someone out of Crooked Creek who I had worked with previously as a teacher.  I wanted to stay true to myself.  People knew who I was as a teacher; I was no nonsense, but had fun.  People say I haven’t changed, but I work hard to still maintain that.

SB:  What has been your greatest triumph as a leader?

KP:  My greatest triumph as a leader is yet to come, but I try to see strengths in my teachers and then use their strengths to grow our school.  We had a big switch in teachers this year.  Many were moved to different grade levels based on the strengths I noticed.  I am hoping to see these results when our data comes out.

SB:  Many school districts in Indianapolis are becoming increasingly diverse both culturally and socio-economically.  Is there anything you have implemented at Crooked Creek to support the changing demographics?

KP:  One of the reasons Marsha Reynolds hired me was because I was trained in Responsive Classroom.  After I was hired, I practiced this in my classroom and showed other teachers.  Responsive Classroom is not just another thing to do.  When it is integrated properly, it can impact every part of the day.

We are also implementing neuroscience into the classroom.  One my former fifth grade teachers, Deanna Nibarger, is now the district’s social emotional coach.  She has been piloting her work at Crooked Creek, along with Nora, Greenbriar, and Fox Hill. She has led professional development and given teachers a common language and strategies to use.  Deanna created an amygdala reset room where students can calm down and reset.  Each classroom now has a quiet corner with a bean bag seat, timer, and activities to do to help them reset and calm down.  We have a neuroscience club after school.   This work is a work in progress, but it is helping us build our school community.

Another way I am building school community is through our houses. Everyone in our school (administration, teachers, staff, and students) choose a house to join.  Students are part of the same house as they progress through Crooked Creek.  This is an idea from the Ron Clark Academy.  Each year, I send a few teachers to his school to regain their passion for the profession and to learn what they can do to make learning engaging for students even with our constraints.

SB:  What advice do you have for other educators considering principalship?

KP:  It is important to make sure you know how to balance work and home especially if you have little kids.  This job requires a lot of time away from family.  It might be best to wait until your kids are more self sufficient because you get pulled in all different directions:  state mandates, the district, staff, parents, and students.  You also have to know who you are and then stand firm in your beliefs.  

Principals Keana and Eric Parquet with their two sons.

Principals Keana and Eric Parquet with their two sons.

SB:  How do you find balance between personal and professional life especially being married to a principal?

KP:  Being balanced is a work in progress.  While we think we are balanced at times, this is an area we are working on now.  Our sons, who are 15 and 17, are about to be out of the house.  It is important for us to spend time together doing something that we have in common that is not education related, so our only focus isn’t just education and our kids.  We don’t plan on retiring any time soon so we want to make sure we figure this out especially before our children aren’t living with us.  We enjoy traveling and going out to eat, but want to create more opportunities for us to be balanced as a married couple.

SB:  What legacy do you hope to leave as a school leader?

KP:  I would hope people would see the love, passion and high expectations I had for everyone here at Crooked Creek.  When they think back to me, I hope they would say I was a good, caring person and that I did what was best for kids.  

SB:  Any final thoughts?

KP:  Marsha Reynolds always said I was humble.  I try to be a servant leader and model what it looks like to be a professional adult caring for kids.  I model for them how to work with challenging kids; you can still show you mean business while staying calm. I’m good at building relationships with kids.  I feel like I am here for my students and that’s my main job.

Click here to read about Keana Parquet’s husband Principal Eric Parquet.

Partners in Education: Eric Parquet

Principal Eric Parquet

Principal Eric Parquet

Education professionals know the task of shaping children’s futures can be  difficult yet rewarding.  The hours are long and they don’t end when students go home and some educators go home to another educator.  This series aims to highlight dynamic education duos who find a way to balance being immersed in the world of education at school and many times at home too.  

Eric Parquet is the principal of Henry W. Longfellow Medical/STEM Middle School 28 in Indianapolis Public Schools.  The 2016-17 school year is the first year for this Medical/STEM focused school.  A former Chemistry teacher and administrator in Pike Township, Parquet believed becoming leader of this school was the perfect fit for him.

Shawnta Barnes:  Who inspires you?

Eric Parquet:  Both of my parents inspire me and my father inspires my leadership.  I came from a family of educators; my mom was a school counselor and my dad was a former assistant principal and then a district level student advocate.  Although my parents are educators, I didn’t see that initially as my path.

I went to Xavier as a pharmacy major.  The summer after my sophomore year, I went to my old school to coach football.  After that summer, I decided to enter education because I wanted to coach football. Once I entered the classroom, teaching became a love of mine and it wasn’t just about football anymore.  Then, I decided to move into school leadership.

SB:  Describe an adversity you had to overcome as a leader.

EP:  The biggest adversity I had to overcome was opening up a new school and getting the word out about who we are, the mission, and the programming.  Luckily, I was hired the January before so I was able to get my feet wet and prepare for the position.  I went into every K-6 school in the district and talked to parents and students.  My next task was to quickly hire staff and build the expectations and culture I wanted to bring into the building with my team.   

SB:  What has been your greatest triumph as a leader?

EP:  I think my staff and I did a good job of opening up our school with 320 students.  We plan to grow to 450.  Our kids come from all over the city and they come to work hard every day.  I am blessed with a wonderful staff who brought the vision I have for this school to life.

SB:  STEM has become a buzzword recently in education.  How do you incorporate STEM throughout your curriculum to ensure it is truly a STEM school?

EP:  First, we want to make sure STEM happens in all subjects, not just science and math.  STEM is represented in social studies, English, PE and art.  

As a school, we read four novels in our English classes, but each novel has a STEM focus.  Also, we have school wide thematic units.  This week our thematic unit is field medicine.   In social studies, students learned how field medicine was used during the Revolutionary war and they had an opportunity to compare it to field medicine today.  English classes incorporated field medicine vocabulary into their lessons.  

Through Project Lead the Way, our students take project based learning courses.  Each course is a semester long. In seventh grade, students will take  Medical Detectives and Design & Modeling and in 8th grade, students take Computer Science and Automation & Robotics.   

Our programming feeds into Arsenal Tech and Crispus Attucks High School.  Most of our 8th grade students are choosing to attend Crispus Attucks next school year.  I have built relationships with both principals to ensure we have a strong feeder system.  For example, high school students from Attucks will be at our Medipalooza.

SB:  How are you addressing the need for more minorities to enter the STEM profession in your school?

EP:  Our school is majority minority.  We encourage our students to pursue STEM careers in the future.  STEM employers also need more females.  The demand is there; we just need our students to be equipped and ready to pursue the careers.  

Principals Eric and Keana Parquet with their two sons.

Principals Eric and Keana Parquet with their two sons.

SB:  How do you find balance between personal and professional life especially being married to a principal?

EP:  We both go home and watch TV with our computers on our lap.  We find that sometimes our conversations will go right back to education, but we embrace it.  We both love what we do and I think it helps our relationship.

SB:  What advice do you have for other educators considering principalship?

EP:  You have to have a passion for students and student learning.  You have to believe all kids can learn and be successful even ones from difficult backgrounds; you must show love.  

SB:  What legacy do you hope to leave as a school leader?

EP:  I just want kids to understand that we have their best interest and we want to see them successfully graduate from high school, go on to college and work in the STEM field when they get older.   

SB:  Any final thoughts?

EP:  Indianapolis Public Schools gets a bad wrap sometimes, but this has been the best move I have made from a career standpoint. We have great kids and great teachers and we are doing a good job educating our students.  

Click here to read about Eric Parquet’s wife Principal Keana Parquet.

VIDEO: Howard Fuller on School choice and the liberation of low-income families

How does school choice work for low income families? 

Marquette professor, Howard Fuller talks about the importance school choice and options in general. 

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.