School: Grapeland Elementary School
School District: Grapeland ISD
City, State: Grapeland, Texas
About the Nominee: Don Jackson was nominated by his spouse, Darlene Jackson. Grapeland Elementary School is a PK-5th grade campus located in rural East Texas. Nearly 80% of the students struggle financially. Regardless, Mr. Jackson has come in and set high expectations for his campus.
The first thing Mr. Jackson instituted was a dress code that required the students to wear collared shirts to school with jeans and khaki pants or shorts. This initiative was matched by the teachers being asked to not wear jeans to school except on Fridays for spirit day. This initiative was created because of the importance of appearance and self-esteem.
Next, Mr. Jackson sought out to establish clubs on campus that would enrich student culture. The teachers were asked to nominate students who were leaders in their classrooms to become ambassadors for the campus and represent Grapeland Elementary in events around town. The ambassadors meet each Tuesday, go to local businesses, attend school board meetings and played an instrumental role in promoting a bond election for our school.
The next club Mr. Jackson formed was called Young Businessmen. This group of young men meets each Thursday and must wear a tie and khaki pants to school. Local businessmen from town are brought in to meet with them and teach the importance of having great character and getting a great education. As a reward for their good behavior, Mr. Jackson stays after school with the students on Thursdays so they can perform a community service task around the school and have recreational play.
Mr. Jackson has also instituted a choir club, a book club and a club for GT students. The students at Grapeland Elementary are taught character along with the curriculum and start each day with a motivational message from Mr. Jackson. During announcements, he is known to either play a song or break out into a song on the PA system. Each Wednesday, students in 2nd-5th grade gather in the gym for a 15-minute motivational message from the principal. The students are taught life lessons that are aimed to inspire them to be great students to create aspirations for a lifetime. This program is called REACH (Relationships, Encouragement, Attitudes, Coaching and Help).
Finally, Mr. Jackson has established a program that has students stretching and reaching their way to success. The program is called Triple A, which stands for Attendance, Attitudes and Academics. Students who have no absences, above a 90 in conduct and at least a 75 or higher in all classes are recognized as Triple A and get to go on a fun field trip every 6 weeks.
In conclusion, Mr. Jackson is committed to being a role model his students will look up to and be inspired by. His monthly callout to his students’ parents, as well as the awards assemblies he holds each 6-week period, keep the halls filled with parental involvement. He even finds time to call students who are absent from school each day to let them know how they are missed. This connection with his community is further enhanced by working directly with the schools' PTO group which is 70 strong.
The staff at Grapeland Elementary School will tell you that they are supported and have a voice in the collaboration of principles and practices. Working together, Mr. Jackson and his staff have become a collaborative force. It is apparent that Mr. Jackson looks, listens, learns, leads and loves his students, staff and parents. He is a powerful, personable, professional and positive difference-maker who is a communicator, collaborator, and connector while remaining calm, cool, collected and careful in dealing with all people. This principal makes a difference by being visible, available, approachable and accessible. His humble beginning as a child of a single mother has created a man with high energy, effort and enthusiasm.