Our opinion: Fostering a team environment
Congratulations to Dover School Principal Bill Anton and Wardsboro Elementary School Principal Rosemary FitzSimons for earning venerable awards that highlight the great work being done at their schools. They are a credit to their profession, and indeed to all of Windham County.
Anton has been selected for the National Distinguished Principal Award from the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and FitzSimons will receive the Henry Glaguque Vermont Elementary School Principal of the Year award from the Vermont Principals' Association. They will be honored at the association's annual banquet in Killington this August.
Anton and FitzSimons share some common traits that may help explain why they were selected for these awards. For starters, both were quick to give the credit for their honors to the teachers with whom they work, to the students, and to the support they receive from parents and the community as a whole.
"An award like this is really a reflection of the Dover community at large, the colleagues that I get to work with, the parents I partner with, the kids that do all the work, the School Board that provides all the conditions for success and the community that provides all the resources," Anton said. "To me, it's just a reflection of all of us doing all we can to create a world-class educational institution."
FitzSimons echoed those sentiments: "I don't see it as a principal's award. In the modern world, the principal is a part of the team. Without the collective work of everyone here, we wouldn't have made the gains we've made here nor would I have received the award."
FitzSimons said the key to Wardsboro Elementary School's success was its creation of a vision for the school community that focused on developing the best it could offer its students and developing a pathway to achieve this. When she first started as principal at the school seven years ago, FitzSimons and the teachers sat down to create an action plan that would look at how to improve learning and increase successful strategies.
She believes her students' New England Common Assessment Program scores were a barometer of their learning. FitzSimons has seen reading scores go from 53 percent proficient to 98 percent this year. In 2007, students failed to make adequate yearly progress, or AYP, in math. This year, 90 percent of the students were proficient or above in their math scores.
The key to this success, FitzSimons said, is simply understanding that learning is about the students and figuring out what is best for them.
"It's about knowing we're doing the best for our kids and their being successful that shaped the academic success," she said.
That ability to tap into the qualities and talents of their staff, and tailor the educational programs at their respective schools to fit the needs and learning styles of the students is another trait that FitzSimons and Anton share.
"You need to tap into so many things because you are working with such a professional group,"Anton said. "My job is to make sure we're improving resources, support and coaching to allow them to do what they do well."
Through the years, Anton said he has learned that each environment is unique and educators need to play to the strength of their local community. He said there isn't one way or path to define success.
"You need to read the local situation and listen. It's a lot of listening," he concluded.
As both have demonstrated, being a successful leader isn't just about being a boss; rather, it's about fostering a team environment and helping those you work with do what they do best. That's why the two are so deserving of these awards.
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