- Charleston County School District
National Principals Month: Principal Malone makes sure basic needs of students and families are met
The role of a principal has changed through the years. According to Sanders-Clyde Elementary School Principal Janice Malone it goes beyond academics and discipline.
“The needs of the family play a big part in what we do as administrators and educators,” said Malone. “We have to help meet the basic needs of our families so that children can come prepared and ready to learn.”
The staff at Sanders-Clyde embraces that philosophy; they conduct regular check-ins with parents and connect them with whatever resource they may need.
“I know that can be taxing on staff but they are committed to serving our families,” Malone explained. “Our teachers understand the population we serve and they understand the dynamics of our job here at Sanders-Clyde are more complex than in other schools. Our job is greater than just textbooks. It’s the relationships that we build that are so important.”
Amanda Staples is in her third year teaching at Sanders-Clyde. She admires how much pride Malone has in the scholars and the support she provides the teachers.
“Mrs. Malone not only empowers our students and their families, but she empowers the teachers,” said Staples. “She is an amazing resource and is never too busy. She is always just a phone call away and always has my back.”
Sarah Langdon teaches with Staples in a third grade classroom.
“Our students have needs here but because of her commitment, Mrs. Malone finds resources to support children so they can be as successful as possible,” said Langdon. “She also has an open door policy and we can ask her for anything at any time. She works collectively for the students, the community, and me. I feel supported in every way which allows me to provide our kids with everything they need.”
Staples said that Malone encourages her to be the best teacher she can be.
“With Mrs. Malone’s support, the teachers at Sanders-Clyde are able to align the educational expectations with the overall needs of our students because the two most certainly go hand-in-hand,” said Staples.
Teachers at Sanders-Clyde get to know the families of the students they teach so that a level of trust can be built. This results in the ability to make major impacts on families in need.
Fifth-grade Tamaria Jones said she feels loved and cared for by Malone.
“She is so kind and loving,” said Jones. “Her smile greets us when we arrive or when we see her on the morning news. She makes me happy and keeps a smile on my face throughout the day. “
Jones’ mother is thrilled that Malone is her daughter’s principal.
“My mom says she knows I am learning and am in good hands at Sanders-Clyde,” said Jones. “She [Principal Malone] is my favorite and she is beautiful inside and out.”
It is important to Malone that students at Sanders-Clyde can leave their worries at the door.
“We work really hard to penetrate through the tough exterior our students put up so that when they are in this building, they can just be kids. “They are often in survival mode when they are in their communities, but here at school, we give them hope.”
Malone knows that being a teacher at Sanders-Clyde is unique. She goes above and beyond to provide professional development, resources, and intensive training to her staff so that they feel supported.
“When making decisions, I think like a teacher first,” said Malone, who has been in education for 38 years. ”If I am a teacher and I feel supported and heard, I am more likely to trust my principal.”
Wanda Izzard is in her fifth year at Sanders-Clyde and is grateful for the support Malone provides her.
“She helps us when we need parent support and makes sure we have what we need for important conversations,” said Izzard. “She is my role model and exudes poise and professionalism.”
Experience equals perspective
Malone has been a principal for more than 20 years. She began as a teacher with Charleston County School District (CCSD) 36 years ago. At one point in her storied career, she was recruited away from Charleston to start a school from the ground up.
“At the time I thought I was crazy for taking on the challenge,” said Malone. “Once I saw the success of the effort, I realized that I could do this anywhere.”
Malone chose to come home to Charleston to serve in Title 1 schools where she felt like she was more needed. She was determined to make big changes from the ground up and is doing just that at Sanders Clyde.
“Mrs. Malone’s leadership style is intentional,” Izzard said. “She ensures that Sanders-Clyde is a safe space for us to do our job and allows us the opportunity to have a voice.”
Malone uses the example of a fish and the lake in which it lives to describe her philosophy of service.
“We have to address the environment our students live in so that we can strengthen them,” said Malone. “We lift our families so that we can lift our students.”
This has resulted in improved attendance, noticeable self-confidence boosts in students, and improved academic scores. The school led in growth in MAP scores and in the elementary category for the district.
“It is important for everyone in the school to have a voice because we are not isolated,” Malone explained. “What happens in the community comes into the school in the form of behavior, emotions, or gossip. We can’t ignore what some of our students have to deal with when they go home.”
Malone considers her staff the first line of defense.
“We don’t pity our students, we empower them,” said Malone. “We are proactive and responsive to their needs while keeping high expectations. Learning is always at the forefront.”
According to Langdon, Malone only hires the best of the best.
“The staff goes above and beyond,” said Langdon. “We are all willing to do the extra work. It is paying off.”
Taking a stand
In response to a recent shooting in the community that left a Sanders-Clyde student injured, Malone organized a march for the students. The intention was to give the students an opportunity to protest gun violence.
“The students felt good about taking a stand,” said Malone. ”It really meant something to them.”
Kingston Wilson is a fifth grader who has attended the school since he was three years old.
He was appointed as an ambassador to the school.
“It is important to represent the school and everyone here in a positive way,” said Wilson. “We want the community to see Sanders-Clyde as a powerful educational facility.”
Izzard said that Malone’s connection to the community has built trust not only with the parents but with partners and stakeholders.
“Churches, civic groups, and agencies all work in tandem to provide financial assistance, basic necessities, and health care to our families,” said Izzard. “Her ability to assist when needed comes so naturally to her. I believe it has to be in your heart to want to help somebody and she has an enormous heart.”
Additionally, principals across District 20 are taking a stand. They have formed a collaboration to strengthen and direct the academic progress of students served in its feeder system of elementary, middle, and high schools. The derivative of this collaboration is now called the District 20 Principal Collaboration Program (D20PCP).
District 20 principals collectively agreed that addressing the most pressing needs that permeate D20’s student population was crucial. Their efforts will not only address the goal of all students in CCSD reading on grade level but will also engage students in real-world experiences, broadening horizons, and removing barriers to success.
“I hope the D20 initiative gives kids the opportunity to see and know they are supported,” said Malone. “This will uplift them and even provide opportunities for their parents through education and strategies.”
Izzard said Malone’s veteran experience as a principal will take Sanders-Clyde to the next level and propel the D20 initiative to success.
“She is a phenomenal woman,” added Izzard. “If I were to follow in anyone’s footsteps, it would be hers.”
If the relationships Malone has built with her students are an indicator of her support, then she’s doing something right.
“Children run into her arms when they see Mrs. Malone in the hall,” said Staples. “She embraces our scholars in every way.”
“She cares about us as a person, not just a student,” said Kingston. “She brings joy to me and has helped me through things when I was down.”
Although Malone could retire if she chose to do so, she considers her work her calling.
“Until I am released from it, I am in it for the long haul,” said Malone. “My ministry here is to make a difference and I am blessed to be a part of the work.”
In the meantime, Malone plans to continue building traction by growing and strengthening her staff and building consistency and continuity.
“I can honestly say that the adults in this school building are inspired to make every effort to help our students succeed,” said Malone. “With that comes the expectation of excellence in all we do.”