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CCSD principal working her magic on low performing schools

Posted: 9:40 PM, Nov 02, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-03 04:48:05Z
CCSD principal working magic at school
CCSD principal working magic at school
CCSD principal working magic at school

This story is part of our  Raising The Bar  series. Together with parents, educators, business and community leaders, 13 Action News is leading the discussion on improving education in Southern Nevada. We will connect families with solutions that empower our community to build a foundation for a successful future. If you have an idea for a Raising The Bar story,  click here to email us at raisingthebar@ktnv.com .

What was once a struggling school in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Las Vegas is now a shining example of how dreams can come true. 

It's all because of one Clark County School District principal who created a high performing culture by inspiring every student and teacher.

She's being asked to do it once again. This time at another elementary school where the students and teachers face huge challenges. 

George E.Harris Elementary School Principal Margarita Gamboa Harris can walk down any hallway and show evidence of what she's doing to improve one of the district's lowest-performing schools.

"We are a one-star school and we own it. But we know that we can't stay there," said Harris.

Measuring student performance includes a complicated analysis of test scores and other benchmarks, but Harris scales it down.

" You do need a plan," Harris said. "And goals set."

She's dealing with a lot of new faces. The school had an 85 percent turnover of teachers. Harris said to show her staff they're respected as professionals she chooses not to micromanage, but instead pushes a mindset she calls the " tight-loose."

"So, the tight is you will all be using the same curriculum," said Harris. "But the loose is, how are you going to plan? What are you going to do first?"

 Goals are set daily, weekly and monthly at every level. 

"A student's achievement is not linked to the zip code they live in," Harris said. " It's more about the opportunities."

It was at Sunrise Acres Elementary School that her journey to excellence began as a principal and a little girl who went to school there. 

"It definitely brings credibility and ensuring that the community knows that well if she did it. I can too," Harris said. "Growing up on 28th street and knowing that there are gangs around and that there's violence."

Sunrise Acres used to be a one-star school. It was a campus where 75 percent of its students had limited English language skills.

"Creating that opportunity for students to know that they can do it., " Harris said. "And being limited English myself when I was in elementary school at Sunrise Acres. I'm sure that brings some credibility and some hope."

She spent six years at Sunrise Acres taking it from a one to a four-star school. Harris is determined to do it again at her new school.  She has a blueprint and track record to make it happen.

"Now it's exciting that systems that worked before can be put in place right away," Harris said.

Systems like dividing students up into "houses" symbolized by colors and names like compassion, friendship and success and written in different languages including Spanish, Chinese and Arabic.

The staff serves as mentors for each house.

"We have to show students that we care before they show us that they care," Harris said.

What is Raising The Bar?

Together with parents, educators, business and community leaders, 13 Action News will lead the discussion on improving education in Southern Nevada. We will connect families with solutions that empower our community to build a foundation for a successful future. If you have a story idea, email us at raisingthebar@ktnv.com.

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