Jerri-Lynn Williams-Harper, superintendent for Albion Schools considers herself a change agent and she hopes to do just that in her new position. Ms. Harper brings thirty-two years of experience with her to the small school district that strives to give its best to students. She feels that Albion is at a time and a place in its history where they need to make a change. The district, not unlike many, suffers from a shrinking enrollment/budget and a struggle to help all students succeed.
And as for motivation, well, Ms. Harper focuses on students. When it comes to motivation, Harper believes that educators must work backwards. “I like to talk with students, look at the data, and THEN I talk with teachers.” She consistently reminds teachers and adults that, “It’s not about us; it’s about the students.” Once the voices of students have been heard and the data analyzed, she works with the teachers to come up with a plan to address the diverse needs of the students.
Jerri-Lynn is also listening to and participating in the community where she serves on a number of boards. Her involvement helps to bring together everyone to benefit the students. One priority for the district is to help Albion students be college and career ready, so the school is partnering with Albion College. The goal of the community is to have students remain in the area after they have completed their college education.
One of the special programs that Albion is putting in place is the use of iPads as a teaching tool, not as a piece of technology. Currently all 5th and 6th graders have them and 7th and 8th graders will be receiving them soon. They will start with a few at the high school next year as finances are available. Another new program at Albion is the piloting of the NWEA assessment that will be given twice this year. This will help teachers develop individualized plans for each student. Harper says, “It will give us information to group students and challenge students as well as intervene as needed.”
Harper is also paying attention to supporting teachers who are preparing for the Common Core with a leadership team attending the Common Core Seminar Series (supported by their team of IEE Coaches). The superintendent states, “I am very proud of our coaches (Jenny Kay, Traci LaDue, and Kevin Champagne). They are very thoughtful, very intellectual, and are an integral part of the school. We don’t consider them outsiders. They are leaders. They came in, did the assessment and said, ‘This is what we need to do.’”
Harper describes herself as hard-working and she believe the teachers and community members share this value and are working together on behalf of the students.