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Principal works with others for others — students

Donna Boles

Provided photo
Donna Boles PROVIDED - Provided photo

The T-shirt wasn’t the point.

The sense of achievement it represented was the goal.

That’s the reason Donna Boles initiated the “Smart Tee” program at her school.

Boles, principal at Perkins-Tryon Intermediate School, has been named the 2015-2016 Oklahoma Elementary Principal of the Year by the Oklahoma Association of Elementary School Principals. In part, she received the recognition for consistently going above and beyond for her students, staff and overall school family.

The “Smart Tee” program is one way she does this.

“I want to recognize students that are putting forth their best efforts, and I want them to have an opportunity to earn awards each month rather than once per year,” she said.

What difference has it made? The example Boles offers leads to tears in her eyes each time she thinks about it.

His accomplishments

“I was working after school one day with a third-grade student who struggles but is making progress,” Boles said. “I mentioned that I had not seen his shirt this year to put on awards and wondered if he was forgetting to bring it or if he just wasn’t interested. He said he hadn’t brought it because he and his mom didn’t think he would get any awards.”

Boles told him he might be surprised and that he should bring his shirt to her.

The next day, the child handed it to Boles.

“When I returned his shirt, he was amazed at all of his accomplishments. I walked with him to the vehicle and witnessed his mother’s reaction when he proudly showed her his shirt,” Boles said. “She had tears in her eyes and expressed how proud she was that her son was recognized for his academic growth. The next day the student was wearing his school shirt and showing his awards to a fifth-grade teacher.

“The teacher praised him and challenged him to get additional awards in math for the remainder of the year. The student beamed and said, ‘I think I can do that!’”

It adds up

Boles, born in Oklahoma City and raised primarily at Dale, taught third grade for a year at Dustin Public Schools, then fourth grade for seven years at Ripley. Then it was on to Perkins-Tryon, where she was a sixth-grade math and art teacher for 14 years before becoming the intermediate school principal, a position she had held for six years.

She consistently works with others to improve learning opportunities for students.

This includes leading her staff in restructuring the instructional schedule so that all third- through fifth-graders receive additional daily math instruction.

Boles believes that while all academic areas are important, reading and math foundations are critical to the success in other subject areas and upper-level math courses.

“After examining student data associated with state standards and testing,” she said, “we determined that teachers and students are very rushed to adequately cover all of the required skills. It is not beneficial to just expose students to concepts but not allow time and multiple strategies necessary to master these concepts.

“There is a huge difference between learning for a test and learning for a lifetime.”

So it was decided to make adjustments to class schedules that guarantee longer, uninterrupted instructional times for math.

Physical education, music and computer classes are scheduled at times that do not interfere with the extended blocks of reading or math, she said.

“State test scores are improving, and students are demonstrating greater levels of understanding, mastery, critical thinking, and retention of math concepts,” Boles said.

And again, she considers reading as an important foundation for students.

“Students must be proficient readers in order to achieve success in other areas,” she said. “Our district is committed to developing strong readers. The most successful readers spend at least 20 minutes at home each evening reading to and with their parents, but some students need even more support.

“After-school, Saturday, and summer programs are available to students in need of additional reading instruction.”

National recognition

Boles was chosen as the association’s Oklahoma Elementary Principal of the Year by a five-member committee consisting of former award winners and elementary principals from across the state who selected three finalists for site visits. The finalists chosen were Boles, Ashley Hearn, principal at Larkin Bailey Elementary in Owasso Public Schools, and Sheron House, principal at Will Rogers Elementary in Edmond Public Schools.

The finalists are scheduled to be recognized in June at the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration Summer Conference at the Embassy Suites in Norman.

With the state title, Boles is also recognized as a National Distinguished Principal in concurrence with the National Association of Elementary School Principals’ annual awards program.

A ceremony will be held in October in Washington, D.C., to honor the representative principals from each state.

“While I am very grateful to receive this honor and recognition, I would not be successful without the ongoing support of our school’s amazing teachers and staff, fellow administrators, board members, parents, students, and community members,” Boles said. “I am also grateful to my family and our church family for their continued love and encouragement.”

How to help

Donna Boles, principal at Perkins-Tryon Intermediate School, said the “Smart Tee” program is time consuming and “fairly costly.”

“I am extremely grateful to staff members and family members who donate their time to help me keep up with the shirts that flood into my office each month,” Boles said. “I appreciate the parents, grandparents, community members and businesses that help me fund the program and ensure that every child is able to get a school shirt.”

The school is accepting donations to fund the program for the 2015-16 school year. Checks may be mailed to Perkins-Tryon Intermediate School (Attention: M. Arthur) P.O. Box 549, Perkins, OK, 74059.

Bryan Painter

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