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"As we work toward our goals, I applaud you, the staff at Potter Elementary for the support you provide daily to your students and families." - Jeff Eakins

Letter of Support to Potter Elementary

March 16, 2017

Potter Elementary’s Leadership and Staff Deserve Our Confidence

Dear Potter Elementary Leadership and Staff,

After reading the most recent article and editorial published by the Times regarding Potter Elementary, I feel compelled to publicly write you. As you all know, turning around a school is extremely difficult work. It requires ownership of the solutions and long term commitment.

I want to thank you personally for your commitment to the work. Research is clear that adding tension, anxiety and doubt to an already difficult process will only serve to undermine its success. You deserve better. You deserve our confidence and support. So, let me provide that for you today.

First, Principal Hill, we believe in you. Not only do I believe in you, but the School Board, district staff and community believes in you. I want to remind you that 10 months ago when we went through the principal selection process for Potter, we did something never done before at an elementary school, we asked community stakeholders to be part of the selection process. It was clear at the conclusion of the process who the community supported to be the next principal at Potter. It was you! You are a product of our district’s extensive Principal Pipeline work and it was clear to the committee and myself that you have the skills, determination and heart to put Potter Elementary on the pathway to sustainable success. So the next time someone who has never been a principal questions your ability to be a principal, pick up the phone and call two of your fellow “Elevate” colleagues, Principal Langston at McLane MS and Principal Green at Sligh MS for reassurance. They were both “first time” principals at their schools. They faced similar challenges and media coverage their first year, but now 2 years later, both schools are on a pathway to sustainable success.

The first year of turning around any school requires setting the right conditions for learning to occur. I know you and your staff have been working extensively on doing just that. Thank you for your leadership with this work by setting high expectations for staff and students so that all the building blocks are in place for future success.
Teachers and staff at Potter, we believe in you! By choosing to teach and work at one of our district’s high need schools, you are committing to changing the trajectory of success for students, who without you, may never reach their fullest potential. You deserve our praise, support and confidence because The type of environment you are creating is based on strong relationships with students and positive learning conditions in every classroom. I was especially disheartened that the Times took isolated incidents and created an illusion of school-wide chaos. To the contrary, educational professionals who have actually visited your campus have noted the culture shift that is taking place. It is clear that chaos does not exist. You have created the conditions for students to treat each other respectfully and for effective learning to occur.

In October, I brought the entire Leadership Tampa class to Potter to visit several early childhood classrooms. They were all extremely impressed with the culture of the school and what they witnessed in these classrooms. That visit was very intentional. I wanted to both highlight the great work of the teachers and staff at Potter while at the same time underscore the importance of early childhood education to the school-turnaround process if change is to be sustainable.

As we work toward our goals, I applaud you, the staff at Potter Elementary for the support you provide daily to your students and families. You meet the students right where they are, and provide them with the very best guidance, supports and instruction they deserve to ensure their success. And, in the midst of all that you do, you give them the one thing that they need the most to overcome other challenges and barriers that they are sure to face in life…confidence. And, that same confidence that you instill in your students daily, should be afforded to you the leaders, teachers and staff at Potter Elementary. We believe in you.

With confidence,
Jeff Eakins
Superintendent of Schools

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