Pasadena Unified School District class of 2010 and 2011 employs a number of African American Principals serving as chief executives/and operating officers at their campuses.
They cover thousands of students at all levels from elementary through high school. They hold Masters, Doctorates and law degrees and span collectively a few hundred years of experience educating students. They include Gregory White, Altadena Elementary; Dr. Kelly Lawson, Burbank Elementary; Dr. Francine Williams, Cleveland Elementary; Dr. Vanessa Williams, Norma Coombs Alternative School; Karone Meeks-Clark, Washington Accelerated School; Dr. Debra Debose, Willard Elementary; Peter Pannell, Eliot Middle School; Dr. Marion Stewart, Washington Middle School; Sheryl Orange, John Muir High School; and Dr. Derick Evans, Pasadena High School.
Their stories are as varied as their campuses. Dr. Debose practiced law before returning to education where she serves as principal of Willard School.
Dr. Kelly Lawson serves as principal of Burbank Elementary School in Pasadena. She was previously the Principal of Noyes Elementary School. Lawson is an educator who is passionate about literacy. The desire to help others learn to read is what drives her.
She also serves as President of Phi Delta Kappa Educational Sorority, a national sorority of professional educators, where she serves as leader and inspiration to other educators.
At Cleveland where Dr. Williams serves as Chief Executive Officer, her school's 2010 API scores are at the 785 level. Only 800 is possible. The community support for her educational efforts is enviable. The list of organizations giving support to this historical school where America's First Black National Baseball league player, Jackie Robinson, attended is phenomenal. They are, Women In Action, Martin Luther King Coalition, Neighborhood Church, The Epicenter Church, and the Friends of Cleveland organization to name a few. Also, individuals such as State Senator Carol Liu, have identified Dr. Williams' leadership and the Senator lends her name and support to assisting her efforts at Cleveland.
With 8 years at Cleveland, Dr. Williams is proud of the fact that the school is the home to 21 gifted students where the average is 3 or 4 gifted students per school. Williams has proven herself a success at garnering community resources to benefit her students. The Los Angeles District Attorney's office has conducted mock courts and field trips for Cleveland students to acquaint the students with the justice system. Other programs and activities include her volunteer readers program, a Women In Action sponsored school banquet, a community clean-up day which includes neighborhood residents volunteering to paint the buildings, and the friends of Cleveland who donated over $80,000 in equipment. This is just a small snapshot of the community resources that Williams has garnered. However, in spite of her accomplishments, she, like so many high achievers has been targeted by two school board members and one board member's wife whose children attend Cleveland. This is the same District who last month made efforts at eliminating two Black PUSD Psychologists because they did not speak Spanish.
Dr. Marion Stewart and Karone Meeks-Clark have the unique experience of heading as co-principles of the Washington Educational complex. Meeks-Clark is principal of the elementary school for the past 8 years. Meeks' students achievement of the 789 API test scores is phenomenal testimony to her leadership skills. Attendance is up at both the elementary and the middle school where Dr. Stewart has served as Principal for the past 4 years.
Her success as a principal has been well documented as she has drawn on her years as a Principal at other schools in the PUSD.
Effective programs to recruit community resources including the recruitment of over 150 volunteer reading partners assist in the educational process. The recruitment of community resources is an ongoing effort by both principals. Staff development programs account for the phenomenal API scores at Washington.
These schools, once on the state's hit list to be under state control, has been snatched from the firing line by this dynamic duo and returned to local control. While they agree that there is much to be proud of, the pair agree that community support is the key to a better educational process.
School Principals are a valuable asset to the community as they prepare our young to face the future. They receive much of the blame for student failure without much credit for student success. Our focus here is on the important role that African American Principals play in the Pasadena community where trouble has been highlighted much more than the successes of African American students.