Transforming a School Through Grit and Grace

March 24, 2016 |

When Letty Roman, a Raise Your Hand Texas Harvard Leadership Program alumna, took on the job of principal at Smith Elementary School in Magnolia ISD, she found herself smack dab in the middle of a roiling quagmire. The school was struggling with challenging demographics, lackluster academic status, a stagnant staff culture, and a poor reputation. Add to that the area around Smith Elementary had been rezoned bringing to the school families and students from an affluent area.

This created a perfect storm.

“When she came here she had to break a lot of bad habits and she had to raise the school,” said Smith Elementary Assistant Principal Dion Rivera. “She had a job ahead of her and she was not very popular for the first three years because people, when they are left to their own devices, are going to take the easiest road.”

Under great pressure, Roman dug in, assessed school staff and structures, and quickly learned the school had a long road ahead to reach high-performing status. She knew what needed to be done, and it involved taking teachers and staff out of their comfort zones.

The question was, could the school adapt and improve under such tough conditions to meet the needs of all students?

“Mrs. Roman has done what any good principal has to do. She’s made changes in the staff and changes on the team and how they perceive and view things. And she’s created a great team concept here.”

-Deborah Rose Miller, School Board Member

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Deborah Rose Miller


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