The following is a Q & A between Sandra Clement and me.
Dr. Sandra Clement is the 2013 Texas Middle School Principal of the Year. I am thrilled she agreed to share her insights on school leadership with us.
My goal in posting interviews with successful leaders like Sandra is to inspire us to reflect on how our own choices, goals, and actions can affect our lives, our leadership, and our teams. I must also give credit to John Lee Dumas whose great podcast interview questions I have modified for the Q & A’s I have with my guests.
Dr. Sandra Clement is the principal at Foy H. Moody High School in Corpus Christi, Texas. She possesses a Bachelors Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, Masters Degree in Guidance and Counseling, Masters Degree in Educational Administration, and a Doctor of Education from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
She has served as a special education teacher, counselor, district coordinator, and campus administrator over the last eighteen years in elementary, middle school, and high school. She was named the State “Administrator of the Year” in 2012 by the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) and the State “Outstanding Middle School Principal of the Year” in 2013 by the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals (TASSP).
WDP: Thanks for the opportunity! Can you begin by sharing a favorite success quote?
Sandra: “You were born with the ability to change someone’s life; don’t ever waste it.” Unknown
WDP: How have you use the idea contained in your favorite quote to affect your school’s leadership?
Sandra: Collaborative leadership is crucial in the work we dedicate ourselves to every day. It begins with a collective philosophy that ALL children can learn, regardless of where they live or the challenges they face. As educators of students in poverty, we focus on results, not excuses.
WDP: All success comes with risks. Take us back to a failure or obstacle you overcame and how you did it?
Sandra: My first year as principal at South Park Middle School in 2008-2009, we were identified “Academically Unacceptable” under state standards for low performance in science.
We targeted resources and aligned initiatives with our vision, mission, and goals. The cornerstones to our success and improvement included prescriptive staff development, instructional technology, nurturing relationships, and mentorships that played integral roles in every student’s learning experience at South Park.
WDP: How did teamwork play a part in your school leadership?
Sandra: A solid TEAM philosophy and culture permeated the school hallways, classrooms, and teacher planning rooms. People talked to each other and shared ideas, thoughts, and strategies. Teachers engaged in conversation, planning, and weekly training focused on working with students of poverty, the hard to reach child, developing relationships, rigor in lesson design, authentic instructional activities, thinking maps, and hands-on learning reflective of high expectations for all students and staff.
WDP: What results did you see from taking new risks and investing in a team approach?
Sandra: Our state assessment scores that year indicated a 19% gain in Science and an 18% gain in Social Studies. Commended performance levels doubled in Reading, Math, Social Studies, and Science. Our student achievement scores rivaled affluent south side schools. We met state standards and continued to close gaps and increase scores the following two years.
WDP: How has that success led you to new challenges and opportunities?
Sandra: I accepted the position as principal at Foy H. Moody High School in 2012, Moody was “Academically Unacceptable” under state standards. After one year, we are proud to say we have met state standards and are no longer identified as a low performing school. The sense of urgency established as a part of our collaborative path to student success continues and proves that as a TEAM, anything is possible.
WDP: What was holding you back from seeing the high levels of success you have been experiencing for years now?
Sandra: Fear of trying something outside of the box; essentially the fear of failing.
WDP: What is the best leadership advice would have received in your journey?
Sandra: “Take care of yourself, or you won’t be able to take care of anyone else.”
WDP: What would you say is working for you or your team right now?
Sandra: Purposeful collaboration, recognizing that we are a part of something bigger than our individual selves. We are the example for others; we must live it rightly.
WDP: If you could recommend a book for other school leaders, what would it be?
Sandra: Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
WDP: If you could speak to the 20 year-old version of yourself, what advice would you give him or her?
Sandra: Don’t wait until your 40 to start a consistent exercise routine; your body and mind will thank you.
WDP: A huge thanks to Dr. Sandra Clement for sharing insights into her challenges, successes, and words of wisdom for school leaders! If you are interested in connecting with Dr. Clement, you can find her via Twitter: SandraClement50 or Facebook: Sandra Clement or via www.moody.ccisd.us
Now It’s Your Turn Readers: How have you seen shared or collaborative leadership affect outcomes in your school or with your team? What is a school challenge you are currently facing? Feel free to ask your own questions so that we can collaborate together!
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