Title1Admin® Staff Spotlight: Cameron Coleman


    The Title1Admin® Staff Spotlight is a monthly feature designed to introduce you to your colleagues -- Title I program staff from across the country -- and shine a light on district best practices.


    Title I Principal Cameron Coleman, who just began his first year as principal of Adams Elementary in St. Louis (Mo.) Public Schools, urges his colleagues to seek out culturally relevant, authentic learning contexts for students.


    “This sparks interest and drive, which in turn fuels the curiosity that occurs naturally in children,” Coleman told Title1Admin®. “We must learn to capitalize on this capacity in our students.”


    Coleman is eager for new challenges and relationship-building at Adams Elementary, which has a schoolwide Title I program that serves grades preK-6. The school has almost 330 students -- 97 percent of them are black and 94 percent qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch.


    Now entering his second year as a principal for the district, Coleman also says it’s critical to “lay the foundation for student success by first getting to know the students you serve and their families.”

    The following is a Q&A with Coleman, edited for length and clarity.


    Q: What are a few of the biggest challenges you face in your job, and how do you work to overcome them?


    A: Lack of resources and time are the biggest challenges. We need the resources to provide wraparound services that support our students’ development as they may live with extreme circumstances that inhibit the learning process. We also need the time to follow through with the support the resources may provide. We can work to overcome those by building the strongest relationships with our parents that we possibly can, and through that alliance help children heal and focus.


    Q: What are your top priorities this year as principal at Adams Elementary?


    A: Establishing a culture of learning that stimulates our school community’s desire to learn more through effective, culturally relevant instruction based on the Common Core State Standards. Also, assessing the proficiency of the instructional staff, and outlining the necessary support for their professional development.


    Q: What do you find are the most effective ways for a principal to build relationships with teachers, students, and parents?


    Trust and follow-through are non-negotiables for successful relationships with all parties. [Coleman also added the following thoughts of how principals can work effectively with all stakeholders.]


    Teachers: Display empathy and the capacity to truly be an instructional leader by modeling what is expected in the teaching and learning process.


    Students: Make sure they have a voice, that you stay visible and approachable, and help them see the value in themselves, in education, and in the critical role they play in the future of our world.


    Parents: Consistently communicate as many positive aspects of their children that we can genuinely offer, and conduct home visits with the explicit purpose of building a positive rapport between home and school; opening the door for effective communication about education and its importance to the lives of their children; and building trust, respect, and true collaboration.


    Community partners: [Work with partners to] build a shared vision that helps us accomplish our common and individual institutional goals.


    Q: If you could have a few moments with a state or federal lawmaker, what would you want to tell them about education in America?


    A: I would tell them that our educational system must set high expectations and goals to meet them. It costs $90,000 to incarcerate vs. $10,000 to educate. The future of our workforce and the quality and stability of our economy depends on education. We need goals that speak to transformational changes that reflect the same study and depth we have applied to social, demographic, and cultural changes in our society. We need to investigate the correlation between our economy and our national academic progress and, on a systemic level, apply the same types of positive disruptive and sustained innovations that are successful with technology, communication, sustainable energy, transportation, etc. Lawmakers should seek feedback from us in the field who understand what those goals should be, and what the steps to get there should look like.


    Q: What are the greatest challenges you think Title I schools are facing?


    A: We will have to do more with less, and educational leaders need not wait on state and federal lawmakers to be fair to teachers and students before they can truly lead them to success. I also believe in the transition to Common Core instruction, but also contend that the transition will be arduous for some in the field.


    Tricia Offutt covers family and community engagement and other Title I issues for LRP Publications.

    September 3, 2013 Copyright 2013© LRP Publications