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Administrators at NMSI Schools Share Their Success Stories

Over 120 administrative and school support staff from around the country gathered in Grand Prairie, Texas for the NMSI Leadership training - a part of the in-person Content Workshop – in June 2023. These sessions supplied tools and resources for leaders to better support their teaching staff and ultimately benefit the campus culture for all students.  

Administrators participating in NMSI’s College Readiness Program (CRP) were encouraged to submit questions for a closing panel of leaders that have experienced major successes during their partnership with NMSI.  The panel was designed to provide actionable tips for their school as they prepare for the new year.   

In addition to moderation from NMSI Programmatic Partnership members, Roneshia Williams and Toni Schneider, the panel included: 

  • Joseph Horton, South Houston High School Assistant Principal (Pasadena ISD, Texas)  

  • Todd Allen, Irving High School Assistant Principal (Irving ISD, Texas) 

  • Diondria Phillips, John A. Dubiski Career High School Principal (Grand Prairie ISD, Texas) 

  • Allison Castle, Director of Academic Innovation and Special Programs (Harnett County Schools, North Carolina) 

  • Nicole Fischer, Harnett Central High School Instructional Coach (Harnett County Schools, North Carolina) 

  • Catherine Jones, Harnett Central High School Principal (Harnett County Schools, North Carolina) 

“I feel like NMSI has been an awesome opportunity for our school to help prepare more students for college,” shared Jones. “Before NMSI, AP courses were only for juniors and seniors. It was exciting to bring AP courses to our freshmen classes two years ago and now, as sophomores, some of these students have a GPA of 4.6 or greater because of that exposure to AP coursework in their freshman year.” 

To the question of first steps once they leave the conference, Allen shared, “First, you're going to have to sit down with your district administration and share the vision - same with your instructional team and counseling group. Prepare for pushback. Not everyone will immediately share your vision. So, the earlier your share this vision of changing the school culture, the more buy-in you’ll receive.”  

 Jones added, “Our first focus was to add more [advanced] courses. And as important as that is, recruiting more students for those courses is more important, and if I had it to do over again, I would’ve done that from the start. It’s why we’re beginning a student ambassador program this year; [students] can sell the class better than any staff member you have.”  

“I would also add to be really intentional about who you select to teach your AP courses,” said Phillips. “If you have AP teachers that are serving as gatekeepers, or just not rallying around the NMSI mindset as we call it, you may have to make some tough decisions.” 

Speaking of tough decisions, Horton talked about the challenges of smaller classroom sizes due to master scheduling. “Because [having Computer Science courses] is a district [initiative], they’ve chosen to move forward with the computer science courses. It helps to have the district on your side.” Horton also shared how his school was able to attract more girls to Computer Science. “We had about 60 young ladies meet women in the industry and, of the 60 in attendance, half of them signed up for the courses.” 

The rest of the questions ranged from better support teachers to strategies for engaging parents and the larger community. Current leaders participating in CRP can view the entire panel in their asynchronous resources.  

Are you an administrative, school support leader, or teacher looking to change your school culture? Find out more about the College Readiness Program and contact us