Deep Run principal receives award for her leadership skills


Education Beat

October 02, 2005|By HANAH CHO

Having taught for more than a decade, Frances Donaldson has gained perspective on what makes a good - or bad - principal.

For 21 years, Donaldson has been using that knowledge to lead schools in Howard County, most recently as principal at Deep Run Elementary School in Elkridge.

"I worked for very good people and not so good people, and I thought becoming an administrator is the most positive and powerful way to make a significant difference so I decided that's what I wanted to do," she said. "I saw the impact of having a positive principal and having one that wasn't so good on the school."

Donaldson is one of 66 elementary and middle school principals from public and private schools nationwide and overseas to receive the National Distinguished Principals Award from the National Association of Elementary School Principals. The honor recognizes principals' leadership.

The winners will celebrate at an award ceremony Friday in Washington.

"It's very humbling because there are a lot of other great principals in the state and in this country," Donaldson said.

Adrienne Zendt Taylor, Deep Run's PTA vice president, said Donaldson has created a positive school environment where "everyone is going to succeed."

"There is a strict expectation for conduct, but done in a very positive way," said Taylor, who has two children at Deep Run. "She's very caring to the children."

Donaldson, 60, credits her staff and resources from the system's central office for the school's success. The school has shown consistent improvement on the Maryland School Assessments. This year, more than 80 percent of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders surpassed basic skills on the reading test, while more than 70 percent of them passed the math test.

"We're fortunate in Howard County to have all the resources to make a difference, not only academically but socially and emotionally," Donaldson said.

Donaldson began her elementary teaching career in the late 1960s in New York, where she grew up playing teacher.

She moved to Howard County 33 years ago and started teaching here in 1974 at Longfellow Elementary School as a kindergarten teacher.

She also taught at Clarksville and Talbott Springs elementaries before she was promoted to assistant principal of West Friendship Elementary in 1984. She also held the same position at Atholton Elementary.

In 1992, she became principal at Worthington Elementary. Donaldson has been the principal of Deep Run for seven years.

Donaldson - who earned bachelor's and master's degrees in elementary education from State University of New York, New Paltz - lives in Fulton with her husband. Their two children graduated from Atholton High School.

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