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Strong Leadership Transforms Inner-City High School

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Principal Clinton Wright

If you really want to see how an inner-city school can be transformed through strong leadership, you need go no further than Blanche Ely High in Broward County. "We are a 'D' school now, but by the end of this year, I predict we will be a 'B' school," said the new Principal, Dr. Clinton Wright.

Dr. Wright believes that the atmosphere of the school makes a difference. When he left his position as Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Polk County to become principal at Blanche Ely High, he was amazed at what he saw. "The halls were full of students who were supposed to be in class. There was little or no expectation from students or staff, and it was a horrible learning environment," explained Dr. Wright. "You cannot teach students if there is no discipline." The first thing he worked on was accountability of teachers and students. He informed teachers that it was their responsibility to make sure students were in class on time.

Dr. Wright also made staff changes. He removed one quarter of the teachers he felt did not believe in the students, and he arranged the schedules of the remaining staff so that the best teachers would be working with the more needy students. "How can you make progress when your lowest level teachers are teaching your lowest level students? You can't!" explained Dr. Wright.

Dr. Wright's philosophy is not to make too many changes in his first year. His philosophy is that he will make 20% of needed changes in the first year, 60% the second year and the rest of the changes in the third year. "If you try to make too many changes, too quickly, the staff and the students will revolt," he said.

Dr. Wright believes that good administrators build strong relationships with their students and also show their staff appreciation. He constantly gives his staff and students praise. However, he doesn't hesitate to hold them accountable when necessary. Nobody knows what the FCAT scores will show; however, if Dr. Wright's ability to transform the attitude of Blanche Ely is any indication, then his prediction just may very well come true.

For more information about Blanche Ely High, visit http://www.blancheelyhigh.net/.