In the parlance of another March event, Donna Power
has made it to the Final Four.Power, Lee-Jackson Elementary School's principal since 1998, is one of four finalists for the title of Virginia's 2006 National Distinguished Principal.
The announcement was made in the March issue of The Virginia Principal, the monthly publication of the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals
.A decision on the winner will be announced in May.The Lee-Jackson principal initially learned of the nomination in a February letter, but assumed that she was one of maybe a dozen finalists.When Power opened her copy of The Virginia Principal and saw that there were only four, she was pleasantly surprised.
Asked why she
was selected for this honor, Power
didn't hesitate a minute."Because I truly believe that every day is sunshine and that children should joyfully skip into school," she
Power "firmly believes that happy children learn well and (she) strives to create a happy and safe environment that children love to come to," according to her
Virginia Principal profile.
Creating that happy and safe environment seems to have paid big dividends in terms of academic achievement.For four years running, Lee-Jackson Elementary School
has been fully accredited through the state's Standards of Learning, and the last two years the school has exceeded the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) benchmarks established by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.Power
has reached out to her
students' parents to gain their trust and come up with collaborative solutions."I really work hard to problem solve with parents," she
pointed with pride at the success of the KIDS
program that she
instituted at Lee-Jackson
, which stands for Kids
In Dynamic Study, provides small-group instruction for youngsters who have a hard time learning in a traditional classroom setting.Power has also headed up the Instructional Support Team initiative at her school, with teachers trained to provide support to other classroom teachers in their effort to help struggling learners.
The Distinguished Principal nomination isn't the first statewide attention that Power
has received.Twice, she
has been asked to be a presenter at the annual conference of Virginia school superintendents.
Fostering a sense of community in the school, Power
has initiated an inclusion program for special education students, with every student joining their regular education peers for at least part of the day, regardless of disability.
That sense of community goes beyond the school grounds.Power
has forged partnerships with such community groups as the Mathews Memorial Library
School Cultural Arts Center, Mathews Master Gardeners, Kiwanis Club of Middlesex, and BayLands Federal Credit Union
, who sponsor the school's Extra Effort Awards.Power
has also been encouraging her
faculty members to advance in their careers, leading two teachers to pursue their master's degrees in administration and supervision, and three teacher assistants to return to school to become teachers.She's been taking her own advice on this count, going back to pursue her doctorate.Power
will take her
residency this summer in Blacksburg and hopes to have her
PhD from Virginia Tech
by May 2007.Originally from Brooklyn and Staten Island, Power received her bachelor's degree in elementary education from Virginia Intermont College in Bristol; her master's in special education from St. John's University in New York; and her certification in administration and supervision from Fordham University, also in New York.She
also did advanced studies at the University of Virginia
.Before coming to Mathews, she was a teacher and then principal at Our Lady of Mount Carmel/St.Benedicta School
on Staten Island; principal at St. Joseph School
in Dallastown, Pa., and principal at St. Anne School
in Lancaster, Pa.She
taught fifth grade special education at Thomas Hunter Middle School
for one year before replacing Aaron Wilburn as Lee-Jackson Elementary School principal in 1998.She lives in the Glebe, where she is a partner in Two Left Hands Farm, raising German warmblood (Trakehner) and thoroughbred horses.