Principal builds a new school from the ground up with the help of Great Expectations
Laying the Foundation
Hired as principal before Bailey Middle School was even built, Veronica Vijil began at the ground level. You can even find her handprint in the concrete floor of the gym-area boys’ restroom at the Spring, Texas school. As Vijil began establishing a culture within the school, a main question was how their professional development would be carried out.
After talking with a colleague at a neighboring school in the same district, Vijil decided on Great Expectations. Taking one step at a time, the question then became how to pay for it. Fortunately, Vijil found charitable foundations in the area that donated funds to cover the first three years of training.
Bailey Middle School opened in 2005 with 900 students and 100 staff members, including custodians, bus drivers, other support staff and educators. Everyone on the staff was trained in Great Expectations.
At the start of every day, each student at Bailey Middle School participates in the morning assembly in the gym. Lasting between five and 10 minutes, students take the microphone to make announcements, say the pledge and even show off talents in front of their peers.
Then, to prepare for the start of their day, the students walk back to class in silence. Most outsiders cannot believe the entire school does this every morning but Vijil has a message to those naysayers: “Come watch us.”
Vijil tries to stay off the PA system as much as possible during the day and encourages face-to-face interactions, public speaking and students to cheer each other to success.
As a Model School for Great Expectations, 90-100 percent of teachers are implementing 100 percent of the Classroom Practices daily at Bailey Middle School. Therefore, new hires also participate in training.
“As teachers are hired, we let them know that they will go to training in the summer, that the expectation is for everyone to attend the methodology course so that everyone is speaking the same language,” says Vijil. “Since this is what drives our philosophy and all of our actions are built around it, we feel that it is very important to have that as a non-negotiable when people come on board.”
Growth and Progress
Now with more than 1,200 students enrolled, going into its ninth year of existence and trying to become a Model School for the second year in a row, Bailey Middle School is one of progress. Bailey was also named a Texas School to Watch in 2014 by the Texas Middle School Association.
“The results are seen in the actions and behaviors of our own students. I think that GE is a great model for teaching life skills to students. And by virtue of teaching them life skills, they gain this confidence that is kind of unexplainable to me,” says Vijil. “They are speaking in front of their peers, they are greeting at the door and instruction is set at a high level of rigor. The kids feel a connection to their learning.”