•  Leading our Students towards success at Hunley Park Elementary

  • Katchia Gathers

  • Tell us a little about yourself, your education, your family, etc., and one unique thing about you.  Why did you choose to become a leader of an acceleration school? 

    I have developed a natural affinity for working in Title I schools. I prefer to work at an Accelerated school because of my passion for education. When you know the power of education and the opportunities it provides, you ensure the right conditions are in place for students to learn. This means establishing a rigorous curriculum aligned to standards, considering data and interventions, and confirming that students know their progress and own their learning. When children are equipped with the skills they need for their future, they are the best version of themselves and positively influence their families and communities.  When staff members collectively; focus on curriculum/instruction, analyze data, create a caring learning environment, and understand each student’s circumstances can inspire. It’s so rewarding to see how students who have struggled in many areas in their educational journey feel empowered to do their best. That often happens in a school where everyone makes the best student decisions. 

    Hunley Park has had tremendous academic gains. What has been your primary focus and why? 

    We have focused on curriculum and instruction. Teachers spend time in professional learning communities to unwrap the standards, gaining an understanding of what students need to know and be able to do. We review assessments before teaching and align our instruction accordingly. Teachers can internalize lessons to prepare for student learning. We take time to analyze and respond to data. Beyond the curriculum, instruction, data analysis, and intervention, we also emphasize creating a positive learning environment.  Students need to have a learning environment that is respectful and built on the best relationships with their peers and staff. 

    What have been your highest-leverage resources to make the gains?

     We have wonderful instructional coaches in math and reading and an assistant principal supporting our teachers. More importantly, I have a great group of educators who are committed to teaching. In terms of transforming schools, one area of leverage is talent management. I have recruited a staff dedicated to teaching and learning.  They often  offer ideas on how to improve students’ academic performance using data. 

    A focus for all schools is shared decision-making. How did you get your stakeholders on board to support the initiatives it takes in turnaround schools?

     A leadership team has been in place since I have been at Hunley Park. I rely heavily on the team to identify our current reality, establish where we want to be, and create action steps to get us closer to our ideal vision. We have a 90-day plan that addresses three areas: curriculum and instruction, data, and climate and culture. 

    What do you love most about Hunley Park Elementary?

     I love that Hunley Park is truly a gem of a school with outstanding students, supportive parents, and a caring staff. I love having staff members who truly advocate for our students emotionally and academically. They inspire me and ignite my passion for keeping going and doing what is best for students.