This year’s national high school principal of the year is a man who led a successful transformation at a small, struggling school in West Philly, which used to be a garage, and turned it into one that is labeled “high progress” by the state of Pennsylvania.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals has named Richard Gordon the 2020-2021 National Secondary School Principal of the Year.
Mr Gordon became principal of Paul Robeson High School in West Philadelphia in 2013, after the school narrowly escaped permanent closure. The root of the discord was the conflicting relationships between stakeholders—a negative attitude brought on by despondent staff members who questioned their belief in students’ ability to succeed and students who did not feel academically, psychologically, emotionally, or physically safe.
He designed a strategic response plan that embraced prevention and intervention measures.
A Safe Corridors Program—a collaboration between the 315-student high school and the University City District—provides extra supervision for students traveling to and from school, increasing safety in surrounding neighborhoods.
In addition, Mr Gordon added over 30 new community partnerships, including a mental health therapy program that provides trauma support for students and builds a trauma-informed school environment.
Since the implementation of these programs, truancy rates have decreased by over 22 percent, graduation rates now average 95 percent, and school suspension rates fell below 5 percent, making Robeson one of the safest schools in Philadelphia.