- Associated Press - Thursday, April 9, 2015

LAS VEGAS (AP) - In the Clark County School District, there are schools with names synonymous with excellence: Hyde Park, Hoggard and A-Tech, to name a few.

But take a walk to the next block over and you’ll often find schools that have struggled year after year, only to come up short. The names of those schools often cause both parents and teachers to cringe.

Now, a local initiative is seeking to change that.

A program concocted by the School District is allowing high-performing schools to “franchise” their models to others in the valley.

The program takes principals from star schools and puts them in charge of a second, low-performing school in their area.

The only requirement is that the adopted school be close to the principal’s “flagship” school. Two of those flagship schools have been participating in the program for about a month now.

Roundy Elementary Principal John Haynal will take charge of Vegas Verdes Elementary, and Bracken Elementary Principal Katie Decker will take charge of Long Elementary, a two-star school.

Roundy is a four-star school located near Sahara Avenue and Decatur Boulevard just a few blocks away from two-star Vegas Verdes. Bracken, a five-star Blue Ribbon magnet school, is east of Cashman Center.

The program is only in the pilot phase now, though. That’s because CCSD wants to monitor the potential problems, such as how on Earth one principal is going to be able to split their already limited time between two schools every day.

But Decker, who has been recognized at the national level for her work, says she’s not intimidated at all. The principal says she’s spending half of her day at Bracken and the other half at Long, where she says teachers have been excited to be part of an effective team.

“It’s a lot more work, but honestly I’m in education to help us communicate stronger and better,” she said, according to the Las Vegas Sun (http://bit.ly/1Gtakb0). “I’ve been wanting to do it for years.”

The idea for the program came out of high-level district conversations about how to replicate the success seen in at-risk schools like Bracken to other neighborhoods. When Decker arrived in 2001, Bracken was one of the lowest-performing in the district.

“Now we are the top in the nation,” Decker said. “If something is good, why shouldn’t you replicate it?”

The former principals at the low-star schools have been reassigned, according to CCSD student achievement chief Mike Barton. He’s confident Decker and Haynal will be able to show measurable results at their adopted schools in as soon as a year.

“When you have rock star personnel, you have to take advantage of it,” Barton said. “It’s definitely a paradigm shift, but ultimately we need to see results.”

The first change Decker made at her adopted school was almost a no-brainer. Students had been coming to school through “the Chute,” a passage surrounded by a chain-link fence.

“It looked like it was for livestock. I wouldn’t let my first-grade child walk down that,” she said.

Now the students enter through the cafeteria, which is just one of the areas she wants to decorate to give the school a welcoming feel. A student garden will be completed next week.

She works with one full-time assistant principal at each school. They create a schedule for her time at the beginning of each week and modify it as needed. Decker estimates that Long will be able to integrate all the programs that Bracken has by August.

CCSD’s ultimate goal is to expand the program if things turn out well. If that happens, Decker will hand Long off to an assistant principal she has coached and mentored along the way.

“Education systems are really bad at succession planning,” Barton said. “This gives us an opportunity to train people with great potential to become the exceptional leaders we need.”

After that, Decker hopes to be able to move on to other schools and do it all over again.

“I’m doing this because I want to have a better community to retire in,” Decker said. “This is what needs to be done.”

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Information from: Las Vegas Sun, http://www.lasvegassun.com

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