Making The Grade

Making The Grade

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Two Newfoundlanders have been named among 40 of Canada’s Outstanding Principals by the Learning Partnership. The Newfoundland Herald speaks with John Antle, principal of Exploits Valley Intermediate

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The role of a principal has changed dramatically over the last decade or so, but there’s key elements that will never change when it comes to a successful and effective school principal. Generally speaking, they create visionary, instructional, and managerial leadership to support change and stability simultaneously. Doesn’t sound so simple, does it?

Being a principal is hard work, and it is also very time-consuming. They must focus attention on the areas that have the greatest impact on student learning, like student discipline, teacher evaluation, developing and implementing programs, while remaining enthusiastic to set a good example amongst the student body.

Two principals in our province of Newfoundland and Labrador have been named among 40 of Canada’s Outstanding Principals by the Learning Partnership. John Antle of Exploits Valley Intermediate in Grand Falls-Windsor and Michael Tobin of Paradise Elementary.

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The Newfoundland Herald spoke with principal John Antle on what values and responsibilities he possesses, and what has made him successful in his career as principal of Exploits Valley Intermediate.

“It’s a very unique role and it’s one I’ve certainly embraced since I took on the position nine years ago,” Antle shared.

“I was a teacher for years. My first teaching position was at G. Shaw Collegiate and I was a replacement teacher there for one year. In September, I ended up with a position in Lakewood Academy in Glenwood. I was there for nine years as a teacher, and the last year I was Vice Principal. Then I went to the school board for a year, as a science program specialist with the Lewisporte-Gander school district. Then I moved to Grand-Falls Windsor as a teacher for one year, and became Principal here the following year.”

Cultural Shift 

Antle and his sidekick, Vice Principal Darren Woolridge, who nominated him for the award, along with the staff of Exploits Valley, implemented a program called PBIS, Positive Behaviour Intervention & Support, which has produced an impressive cultural shift in the last six years.

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“The first year here we were dealing with a lot of behavioural infractions. That’s all we were doing was dealing with discipline every day, and there was 147 suspensions the first year that I was here. We introduced PBIS the second year, a whole program where the staff outlines all the expectations for the school from the classroom to the hallways,” Antle explained.

“We reward the positive behaviour that students are doing by getting a little sheet of paper we call “Gotchas”. They’re rewarded on a weekly basis for these things, and we draw approximately 20-30 prizes at the end of every month. Then at the end of the year we have a large draw, and there’s about $4,000 that goes out on that day with prizes. It’s been an opportunity for the community to get involved in the school. We’ve had major staff going in with this, and you know, students have been very receptive to it too.”

The PBIS program has had nothing but positive effects on the students and on the school, with an ongoing outpour of support from the staff, the parents, and the community. During Antle’s first year, he saw upwards of 140 suspensions. After implementing the program, suspensions began to drop, with only three on record for last year.  

“Hand in hand, once the culture turns around, the academics tend to increase. When we started, the academics were much lower than the district and the province. Our academics have steadily increased, so the last two years we’ve been ahead of the district and the province in all areas of the external assessment,” Antle shared proudly.

Hiccups & Rewards 

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“This one’s a busier year than what we’ve had I’d say in the last three or four. We’re dealing with a number of issues. We lost our lunch time bussing last year. Last year was the first year that we had them stay in, but this year we’re seeing a few more issues that’ve resulted from that so we’re looking at some policy changes and a few things. The staff, I got a remarkable staff here, so we’re certainly dealing with it but like I said, this throws a few hiccups into the way things go,” Antle explained.

Hiccups are no stranger to principals, teachers, and students alike. The school system is a never-ending quest full of progression, challenges and rewards.

“Some days are more challenging than others, but it certainly has its benefits in terms of the extrinsic rewards that you see as well, and the fact that we’ve seen a progression in school culture and the academia here is certainly one of the things that makes us proud of the accomplishments we’ve had as a school.”

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