Jackson Elementary’s new principal Elvia Teixeira doesn’t want
to start from scratch.
The school has a lot of potential. Next year will bring a new
day to the school community as a whole,
Teixeira said Thursday morning. She was officially hired by the
Morgan Hill Unified School District Tuesday after her appointment
was accepted by the school board of trustees.
Jackson Elementary’s new principal Elvia Teixeira doesn’t want to start from scratch.
“The school has a lot of potential. Next year will bring a new day to the school community as a whole,” Teixeira said Thursday morning. She was officially hired by the Morgan Hill Unified School District Tuesday after her appointment was accepted by the school board of trustees.
“There’s a bright future in store for the school. There’s a lot of potential to build on that has to be nurtured and retained,” she said.
For the last three-and-a-half years Teixeira has been the coordinator of English Learner Support for the Contra Costa County Office of Education, working with schools to develop plans for their English learners (a subgroup delineated by the state) and also as a state monitor to ensure those strategies are implemented. Teixeira, who is bilingual, is originally from Los Angeles, attended UCLA then Emmanuel College in Boston for her teaching training and has a master’s degree in educational leadership from St. Mary’s College. Over the course of 22 years in education she has worked as an elementary school teacher in the Santa Ana Unified School District, a principal at Washington Elementary in San Leandro and vice principal for the Pittsburg Unified School District.
Her experience is exactly what Jackson needs, Superintendent Wes Smith said at Tuesday’s board meeting.
“Colleagues who have worked with (Teixeira) describe her as competent, thorough, reflective, considerate of the ideas of others, collaborative and inclusive in planning and implementing ideas, strategies and goals,” he said.
Jackson is labeled as a Program Improvement school by No Child Left Behind, the federal mandate that requires schools to achieve 100 percent proficiency on the state standardized tests by 2014 and maintain a certain amount of growth on test scores each year.
Jackson is in year five of PI and the only school in the district in 2010 to see its test scores slip. Though, their scores have consistently been about 10 to 20 points below the state’s recommendation of 800 points. In 1997, Jackson was honored with the title of a California Distinguished School for making significant gains in closing the achievement gap. Last year, Jackson’s Adequate Yearly Progress did slide from a score of 794 to 768.
Once in year five of PI, schools are subject to harsh sanctions and it’s up to the district to decide what to do with oversight by the Santa Clara County Office of Education and the state. For the 2010-11 school year, under Smith’s guidance, the district hired several experienced educators to work at Jackson developing intervention programs for their English language learners, who have been identified as needing the most assistance at Jackson as they progress in learning English while also learning the curriculum.
The staff at Jackson was also given extra training, the after-school tutoring program was reinstated with more than one-third of kindergarten through sixth-graders attending and the site’s English Learner Advisory Committee has seen much more support, especially from interim principal Ray Jimenez, according to several parents and teachers at Jackson.
Smith said when he asked the school’s staff what they were looking for in a principal, they answered with, “someone like Mr. Jimenez.” Jimenez came out of retirement to assist the school after former principal Garry Dudley retired in September, two weeks after a Morgan Hill Times story reported parents, teachers and staff had filed 19 complaints against him in two years.
Noelia Chavez, a Jackson parent, Home and School Club member and member of ELAC, was invited to sit on the hiring committee and interview the potential Jackson principals. The field began with 72 – not all were interviewed – then narrowed to four finalists. Another principal was hired by the district to take the helm at Martin Murphy Middle School because Barbara Nakasone is retiring this year; he is anticipated to be appointed at the April 15 board meeting.
Chavez said Teixeira’s experience working with English learners – including helping to turn her school around – was impressive; as was the district’s commitment to find a qualified leader.
“They heard what we parents were concerned about and brought us into the process. I was very happy to be there to help see through the changes that I think will help Jackson in the immediate future,” Chavez said. “I think the district has done well in hiring her.”
The timing was just right for Teixeira and her husband James to make the move. They live in Concord but plan to move to Morgan Hill within the year. She said that because their four daughters are all in college, her time is freed to dedicate herself to a school.
“As I have engaged in that work (in Contra Costa), I want to now go back into a school and do the work myself. Not be on this side to encourage and talk about it, but do it myself and put in the effort,” Teixeira said. “This is the site I have been looking for and I am really excited.”
Teixeira did emphasize the importance of not simply using the Adequate Yearly Progress ranking to label Jackson or any other school, saying “a good school is more than that rating.” Her expertise is in aiding English learners – one-third of Jackson’s population – and she said that English learners often project a false assessment on tests, especially in early grades, because their English proficiency is not stellar, “they are developing their English skills while simultaneously developing core content needed to do well on the test,” she said. “It takes four to seven years to get to a high level of English proficiency.”
The district office and Smith have a laser-like focus on improvement at the school – a quality that was essential to Teixeira’s decision to change job titles.
“They’re not doing something for the sake of doing something. These are smart things … I wanted to make sure I was going to a highly functional district. I didn’t want to work within a system that was broken.”
In the first 60 days, Teixeira plans to learn all 450-plus student’s names. “That’s very important. You need to know that to develop a relationship with each student.”
She will also meet with the teachers individually and has plans to host a community forum in the fall for parents to give “everyone the opportunity to voice their opinion and perspective on the school and where it is and where do you think it can go.”
Teixeira will be earning $112,860 annually and begins July 1. She has a message for parents who might be considering transferring their child out of Jackson – an option for parents of students in PI schools: Reconsider.
“Think about how (you) can re-engage and reinvest in the school. I understand it was an upstanding school in the community for years. I know for certain the school can return to that former glory,” Teixeira said.