Georgia principal named Middle School Principal of the Year: Congrats to Laurie Barron of Smokey Road Middle

Dr. Laurie Barron of Smokey Road Middle School

Dr. Laurie Barron of Smokey Road Middle School

This just in:

Laurie Barron, principal of Smokey Road Middle School in Newnan, GA, has been named the 2013 MetLife/NASSP National Middle Level Principal of the Year.

The award was announced today at an assembly attended by students, teachers, district staff members, and representatives from the Georgia Department of Education and the governor’s office. Barron will be honored during a black-tie gala on Sept. 21 in Washington, DC, to kick off National Principals Month.

Barron, the fifth school leader from Georgia to receive recognition as national principal of the year since 2008, joins the ranks of top Georgia principals including Wesley Taylor, Sheila Kahrs, Mark Wilson, and Molly Howard. Earning her place among the elite, Barron was the leading force behind the turnaround of Smokey Road Middle School. When she took over in 2004, she was the fourth principal to run the school in five years. However, by demonstrating her commitment to the success of students and staff members, she was able to tackle the rampant discipline problems, high absenteeism, and low student achievement.

“NASSP’s experience has taught us time and again that nothing is more challenging or essential to school improvement than changing the school’s culture,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “With genuine concern for her students’ welfare, Laurie Barron has established at Smokey Road Middle School a model climate of what the Breaking Ranks school improvement framework requires—a personalized environment where every student is known and feels valued.”

Today, shared leadership, data-driven decision making, and job-embedded professional development help teachers provide personalized lessons. Parents, business leaders, and other stakeholders play an active role in the success of Smokey Road. And most importantly, students receive extensive support through supplemental instruction, mentoring, behavior intervention, and recognition programs.

Although the turnaround process took several years and a commitment from the entire community, the transformation would not have been possible without Barron’s leadership. Since 2003, absenteeism has decreased 11 percent and students have raised state test scores in reading and math by more than 20 percent. The diverse middle school, which made AYP for the last six years, was named a 2011 MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough School for being high-achieving while serving a large number of students living in poverty. It has also received distinction as a Georgia Title I Distinguished School for the past four years.

“We applaud Laurie Barron for her leadership in engaging the teachers, parents, and all stakeholders in the transformation of Smokey Road,” said Derrick Kelson, vice president, MetLife. “Her efforts empower students to fulfill their potential and create a brighter future for the community.”

The national principal of the year search began in early 2012 as each state principals association selected its state principal of the year. From this pool of state award winners, a panel of judges selected three middle level and three high school finalists. The national middle level winner, Laurie Barron, and the national high school winner, to be named in September, were then selected.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

31 comments Add your comment

Luther

August 21st, 2012
11:12 am

Dr. John Trotter

August 21st, 2012
11:35 am

Congratulations, Dr. Barron! Also, congrats to the parents, teachers, and students of Smokey Road!

Holly Jones

August 21st, 2012
11:39 am

So nice to read some good news! Congratulations!

Howard Finkelstein

August 21st, 2012
12:28 pm

Beauty and Brains all wrapped up in one package!! How nice!

Betty Jean Bowers

August 21st, 2012
12:34 pm

WELL DESERVED!
Dr. Laurie Barron is a jewel in the crown of the Coweta County, Georgia and United States Education system.
She is one of a kind!!

mountain man

August 21st, 2012
12:43 pm

“she was able to tackle the rampant discipline problems, high absenteeism, and low student achievement.”

At last, someone who recognizes the issues with her school and is doing something about them!

Congratulations, wish you could teach the other principals.

Pride and Joy

August 21st, 2012
12:52 pm

What gives me relief is that the changes were slow and not astronomical, which means to me, they rae much more likely to be real changes and not test score cheating or records book cooking.
Congrats principal and I also agree with Howard, her appearance is polished nad professional in her photo.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

August 21st, 2012
1:06 pm

Dr. John,

MEGA-DITTOS from here in east-central Georgia.

Mountain Man

August 21st, 2012
1:32 pm

“she was able to tackle the rampant discipline problems, high absenteeism, and low student achievement.”

I would be interested in EXACTLY what she did. Generic terms like “behavior intervention” aside, what specifically did she do?

Mountain Man

August 21st, 2012
1:33 pm

And while it says that absenteeism decreased 1 percent, does she have any statistics on how much discipline has improved?

Mountain Man

August 21st, 2012
1:33 pm

11 percent , darn it, 11 percent.

John

August 21st, 2012
1:41 pm

It’s wonderful to hear some positive news about Georgia education, congratulations to Dr. Laurie Barron!

KIM

August 21st, 2012
1:55 pm

This is the type article that needs to be highlighted over and over. So many schools have leaders like her and they get totally overshadowed by the newspaper selling headlines of negativity.

Congratulations to this principal and school.

Ernest

August 21st, 2012
2:14 pm

Congratulations to Dr. Barron! Given that many of our schools have similar demographics to Smokey Road Middle, I would also like to hear her ‘Best Practices’ recommendations, to see if her success can be replicated. I realize it ultimately takes a combination of many entities working together.

Hopefully the State BOE will consider putting her on the ‘rubber chicken’ circuit, as time permits.

Mountain Man

August 21st, 2012
4:26 pm

“Given that many of our schools have similar demographics to Smokey Road Middle”

Actually, during a little research into the demographics, it turns out that Smokey Road Middle School in Newnan, GA – Coweta County, is not anything like Atlanta schools in racial makeup – sorry for bringing race ito this discussion, folks.

dc

August 21st, 2012
5:08 pm

It would be great to see MUCH more recognition like this. I love the idea of putting the best of the best on a public pedestal.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

August 21st, 2012
5:35 pm

A great principal can set the tone for a school. I am lucky in that I work in a school with a strong, supportive adminstration, and having worked many years in schools without such support, I give thanks every day!

Ron F.

August 21st, 2012
8:50 pm

A PUBLIC school principal??? But I thought only charter schools were able to do this! Just goes to show what a committed principal can do with a clear vision and the desire to fix a bad situation, and all without another state agency or constitutional amendment. Many congratulations to Dr. Barron, her teachers, and the community for stepping up and changing the school. Change can happen if leaders know how to unite the forces involved!

Calvin Ruff Ruff

August 22nd, 2012
9:13 am

Congrats to a hard working, dedicated, and truly passionate educator. Dr. Barron, her staff, parents, and community, are a shining example of what public schools can do by working together along with strong LOCAL support. This example might be a good reason to VOTE NO on the upcoming amendment this November. http://www.votesmartgeorgia.com

Ernest

August 22nd, 2012
9:39 am

Mountain Man:

It is reasonable to ask about race when demographics are mentioned however my comment focused on this school serving large numbers of children living in poverty. My casual research of the socioeconomic status for this school (AYP report) showed a poverty rate greater than 50%. I still would like to hear her strategies as they could possibly work in high poverty schools also. Like the three legged stool, it could only work with a collaborative working partnership with parents and the community.

Debi Rogers

August 22nd, 2012
1:47 pm

Congrats to such a wonderful administrator!!! I am so proud of the fact that she has accomplished so much. My daughter attends this school and I am so grateful that she does!!!!!

Debi Rogers

August 22nd, 2012
1:49 pm

Mountain Man…if you want to know exactly what she did then call her directly. I KNOW that she will be happy to share!!!

Mountain Man

August 22nd, 2012
2:08 pm

Ernest – trying not to lower myself to racism.

I grew up in poverty, with my dad supporting 4 kids and his sister and my mom on a working man’s wages. We survived with hand-me-downs and my dad worked a garden every year and we all pitched in to can vegetables. If you had offered my mom and dad food stamps or welfare, my mom would have slapped you in the face. We were “po’ but proud”. We were made to go to school every day and there were no excuses tolerated. If you misbehaved in school and got a whipping (can’t do that anymore, can they), then you would get a SECOND whipping when you got home. If you had to stay after school (do they still do that?) then you got grounded at home. It is not ALWAYS SES, sometimes it is about the character of the parent(s).

Ernest

August 22nd, 2012
3:18 pm

“It is not ALWAYS SES, sometimes it is about the character of the parent(s)”

Mountain Man:

You’ll get no disagreement from me on this statement! Like you, I grew up with many that were ‘poor’ by today’s standards with respect to money however they were rich with character and common sense. I also recall the second whippings myself. Educators were respected and held in high esteem throughout the community. Unfortunately, that is not the case today.

Given the cultural changes we’ve both seen over the years, I’m genuinely interested in how Dr. Barron has succeeded in today’s environment. Maybe it was a simple as getting parents to ‘buy-in’ to what she was doing for their children and how it would benefit them down the road.

Pride and Joy

August 22nd, 2012
5:15 pm

Ernest, you said “Like the three legged stool, it could only work with a collaborative working partnership with parents and the community.”
I respectfully disagree.
How old are you?
In my day, parents did nothing at school. I mean nothing. There were no homeroom mothers. Parents were not expected to get involved in homework. Homework started when the children could read so they could do it on their own.
Often, teachers today expect parents to do their jobs. The three legged stool argument is silly. You’ve made the parent leg bigger than the other leg — the teacher’s leg.
parents offer support by getting their kids to school consistently and on time.
Those who beat the community and parent suppport drum are always looking for an excuse on which to blame poor performance. It’s not my fault — I just didn’t have parental and community support.
What community support?
I didn’t have community support and my school didn’t have parental support.
Once or twice a year my parents were aksed to attend a parent’s night — and it was — at 7:00 p.m. It was show and tell time. Teachers decorated the rooms with our artwork. A few snacks were served. it was meet and greet. Nothing more.
i want to emphasize that parents in that time did nothing to support the school.
Teachers and schools were expected to teach. Parents were required to pay the taxes that paid for the teachers and schools.
You can cry and wax and whine about parental and community support but what you really are driving at is a guaranteed scapegoat to blame for learning failures.

mountain man

August 22nd, 2012
9:00 pm

“In my day, parents did nothing at school.”

It wasn’t what parents did AT school back in “my day”, but what they DIDN”T do. They didn’t come down to the school screaming at the principal because “their little angel” had to stay after school just because he spit on the teacher. In “my day” if I had ever spit on a teacher, I would probably have been beaten half to death, after I had gotten out of jail when the police were called.Then I would have been expelled from school.

Parents USED to support teachers and schools, now, they war against them and don’t discipline their own kids. Teachers could TEACH because they didn’t have to spend time doing DISCIPLINE.

Also, parents MADE their kids go to school, and if they didn’t, the truancy officer made a visit to the parents and maybe the parents went to jail.

Old Physics Teacher

August 22nd, 2012
9:01 pm

Pride and Joy,

You are an exception. The number of children who succeed without heavy parental/guardian support can be numbered on two hands. The evidence is darn near irrefutable. The reason for the qualifier is that some on this blog still don’t believe in “global climate change,” and the evidence behind that is just as valid as the above. I admit that I could be wrong. It’s possible for kids to succeed on their own. It’s also possible for chickens to flap their wings fast enough for them to fly. It’s also possible for God to be on the side of the weakest warriors because their cause is just… it’s just best to bet the other way :)

For the rest,
You are justified in being cautious about the stats at her school. The chances she really had that effect by her efforts approaches zero. I visited one of those schools where the principal was the Principal of the Year and saw exactly what happened. If I actually mentioned exactly what the principal did I would get in trouble, not the principal. Rather than brag on these administrators, get their teachers off individually, off school property, and out of their county, and offer immunity. They’ll tell you what happened. All I’ll say is figures don’t lie, but liars do figure.

There have been plenty of articles which show what causes major changes in test scores when these school’s test scores are analyzed. The ones that have dumb people cooking the books get caught. The smart ones that cook books get awards. That’s not cynicism; that’s just reality.

Pride and Joy

August 23rd, 2012
2:26 pm

Old Physics Teacher, you wrote ” I admit that I could be wrong. It’s possible for kids to succeed on their own.”
Kids don’t succeed on their own. They need a good teacher. I think you have under estimated the value a good teacher provides.
Good teachers make all the difference. I am living proof.
What concerns me about your statement and teh statements from other teachers is that they under estimate the power, and I mean real power, they have in a child’s life.

Pride and Joy

August 23rd, 2012
2:29 pm

LOVED this comment. It gives me hope. From I Love Teaching who said “A great principal can set the tone for a school. I am lucky in that I work in a school with a strong, supportive adminstration, and having worked many years in schools without such support, I give thanks every day!”

Please tell us what school you work in.

Pride and Joy

August 23rd, 2012
2:30 pm

MAUREEN — Please interview this middle school teacher and ask her for specifics. By that I mean, what techniques did she use to help the kids and teachers? What advice does she give?

Lue Deck

August 23rd, 2012
6:01 pm

As the only Doctorate in our family, Laurie Barron brings great pride to her school, family, and students. Despite her mother’s illness, Dr. Barron continues her vital work. Have a good time in Washington, DC. I add my congratulations and respect! Uncle Ron in California