It was a full-circle moment for Grace Leal, as she walked into the surprise ceremony in the gymnasium at Lewis Elementary School.
It was there, many years ago, that she began her career in the district as a physical education aide. And now, as principal of that same school, she was surprised by Superintendent Lupita Hinojosa as the Elementary Principal of the Year in Spring ISD.
“This is such an honor,” Leal said. “We are going to keep pushing forward. We are going to make Spring ISD happy for what we do here at Lewis Elementary.”
Leal was praised for her work in turning Lewis Elementary around from a failing school, as well as her involvement in keeping the surrounding community invested in the school’s progress and success.
“Ms. Leal is being recognized as the Elementary Principal of the Year for Spring ISD,” Dr. Hinojosa said. “It’s an amazing recognition. It’s because of two areas. Not only how the students are performing and the teachers are performing, but also the support that you have here in the community and the impact that you are making on our students, on our staff, and in our community.”
Each year, the Principal of the Year recognition is awarded to one primary and one secondary level principal each year, with finalists selected based on campus data and observations, student assessment, and feedback from other district leaders and members of the community. This year, both recipients were surprised at their respective schools.
Over at Bailey Middle School, Principal Shundra Brown was named the Secondary Principal of the Year. She was praised for her vision in Bailey, including her hard work and determination to initiate the performing and visual arts program at the school.
“The Bailey of today is not the Bailey that used to be,” Miguel Perez, Chief of Schools, said. “And it’s all because of the work and the leadership here. For those of us that have been here a while, we know the obstacles, we know the challenges — but we also know the successes that have happened at Bailey. That is why we are here.”
Brown was quick to point out that so much of the work done at Bailey was due to the buy-in and cooperation of the entire staff.
“There are so many different places that you can choose to work. I have never worked at a place like this, ever,” Brown said. “So when you find your fit, when you find people who are willing to rally around a vision and make it work no matter what, that’s special.”