It would be an understatement to say Principal Paul Baez’s natural tendency is to micromanage and multitask.
He used to attempt to do it all, at times to a fault. He is changing, and his school, Rees Elementary in Alief ISD, is changing right along with him – both for the better.
When he took the lead at Rees Elementary (Alief ISD) four years ago, he knew he wanted to make meaningful changes — from how teachers delivered education to painting the walls and planting perennials. “When I got to Rees, I felt like tumbleweeds were coming across” he said while pointing at the street in front of the school. “It was dry, the plants were dead.” So Baez reached out to a friend who worked at a landscaping company. Together with his students, Baez helped the company beautify the school grounds. He didn’t wait for anyone in the district to give him the okay. He just did it.
That’s how Principal Baez approaches classroom instruction. He’s big on personalized learning. He has transformed staff skepticism about new approaches into enthusiasm for how teachers can enhance in-class interaction and instruction with devices and online programs designed to engage students and drive higher achievement.
“Lesson design is still core,” Baez said. “If we go too far with technology, schools take the risk of saying ‘Oh that’s going to be the silver bullet that’s going to fix everything.’ We don’t look at it that way here. We look at technology as enhancing what we’re doing and taking teaching and learning to a whole new level.”
Raise Your Hand Texas sponsored Principal Baez for a year-long professional development course at Rice University that teaches school leaders how to leverage some of the best entrepreneurial practices to boost student achievement. Change management was one of the course topics — a concept that the ever-busy, always innovating Baez takes very seriously. He is such a powerhouse on campus that he’s taken on the persona of superhero “Captain Elektrikon” and encourages his students to be champions in their own learning.
Rees Elementary is not what it was four years ago, and neither is Baez’s leadership style. Today, he spends less time trying to do everything, and more time empowering others. His willingness to evolve his management approaches has also ushered in much needed improvements to his school, inside and out.