Columbia High School Principal Elizabeth Aaron will head to Washington, D.C. this week to meet with Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. and senior U.S. Department of Education officials for a day of learning and advising.
The event is part of the “Principals at ED” program, which brings groups of innovative and successful principals from across the country to the Education Department to learn more about federal programs and to share experiences from their jobs as school leaders, according to a press release from the district. This topic of this visit is “Principal Pipeline, Retention and Support,” and principals will meet with senior staff to discuss the issues, excellence, and areas of growth for high schools across America.
Aaron was invited to the event after a DOE Sr. Policy Advisor and a Principal Fellow recently visited CHS as part of a listening tour in New Jersey, and spent two hours touring the school with the administrative leadership team. They went into classrooms, and spoke to staff and students.
“It was a great afternoon. It was so marvelous to walk around the building with them,” Aaron told The Village Green. The visitors commented on how well the administration knew its student body, and vice versa, and also on the diversity of the student body. In addition, they said CHS “[does] the big picture very well,” in terms of how it prioritizes teaching the arts as well as core content, and understanding “the limits of standardized testing,” Aaron said.
Among other things, the visitors were pleased to see “Safe Space” stickers placed around the building, which connote a welcoming, supportive and safe atmosphere for LGBTQ students.
“They asked us, ‘What’s the secret sauce?’ and we all had different answers,” Aaron said, explaining that CHS administrative team members come from different backgrounds and bring different assets to the table, while sharing the same goals and ideas.
“We challenge each other.”
“Great school leadership matters now more than ever. So much of the work ahead rests on the leadership of principals and educators in our schools and classrooms who make a difference in students’ lives every day,” said Secretary King in the press release. “What happens in classrooms and school buildings shapes students’ lives and opportunities—particularly for students who have the odds most stacked against them.”
The visit is coordinated through the Department’s Principal Ambassador Fellow (PAF) program, which enables local leaders to contribute their knowledge and experience to the national dialogue about public education and, in turn, learn more about education policy at the federal level.
The Village Green will report on the results of Aaron’s visit next week.