School: Simpson County Achievement Center
School District: Simpson County School District
City, State: Magee, Mississippi
About the Nominee: Dr. Roma Windham-Morris was nominated by a colleague, Charlotte Tabereaux. This is the second year Dr. Morris has been nominated for LifeChanger of the Year. She was previously nominated in 2015-16. Dr. Morris truly is a life-changing leader! She was a pioneer leader in Mississippi as she took the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Whole Schools Initiative at Casey Elementary School and developed the school’s exceptional arts focus. She served as an invaluable asset to this school-wide reform effort, which uses the arts to teach all subjects. Dr. Morris is an instructional leader in her field and is recognized across Mississippi as a consummate professional and an outstanding administrator who understands the way that students learn. Research has proven that using the arts (music, visual art, drama, and movement/dance) to teach students helps them learn quicker and retain knowledge for longer periods of time.
Casey Elementary became a statewide model as an arts-focused school for the Mississippi Arts Commission and its national arts integration initiative. Gov. Barbour gave Dr. Morris the “Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts” in 2005, and she received the “School of Excellence Award” from the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education in 2006 and the “Outstanding Administrator in Mississippi Award” in 2007.
When Dr. Morris began her tenure as principal of Casey, the school held an achievement Level 3 (satisfactory). Under her exceptional guidance, the school reached the highest level of accreditation, Level 5-Superior, and continued to hold that level while she was there for over six years.
As principal of Pearl Lower Elementary School, Dr. Morris brought change to the Pearl Public School District. Each week, approximately 700 students visited the Life Center she developed, making deposits and withdrawals from their Merchants and Manufacturers Bank and shopping at their mini Walmart. Dr. Morris expanded the Life Center by working with other businesses in Pearl.
In addition, Dr. Morris was selected as the 2007 Distinguished Principal for the State of Mississippi by the National Association of Elementary School Principals. She was also selected by Today’s Mississippi Woman as one of the Top Doers in Mississippi, and was recognized at the Mississippi Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Luncheon in February 2008. Dr. Morris has encouraged and promoted community involvement throughout her career. Her staff worked cooperatively with her to raise money for the Blare E. Batson Children’s Hospital, Make a Wish, the American Heart Society, and the American Cancer Society.
Dr. Morris’s career led her to be the principal of Simpson Central School (K-8) in her home county, where she further proved her ability to lead a school to level “A” status. Simpson Central was the first-ever Simpson County School to receive an “A.” She takes every school she enters and guides them to levels of higher standards and higher achievement. Dr. Morris has definitely made a positive impact on the lives of so many students, parents, teachers, principals, superintendents and colleagues. She is an exceptional leader who motivates her staff, students and parents to take responsibility for achieving success. She is a dynamic, caring administrator who not only helps students reach their full potential, but helps teachers become models of “highly qualified” educators.
Dr. Morris’s presence is incredibly inspiring as everyone sees her work with almost inexhaustible energy, motivating and meeting the needs of all. Parents love her. Students hug her. Teachers and administrators respect her. The community appreciates her. Her impact is seen when you walk into her schools. It is seen in the students' work that is posted throughout the hallways. It is seen in the professional learning communities that she has set up between teams, grades and the school to plan and deliver quality instruction to all students. The environment is welcoming, and each school she works in is like a "family." Her impact is evident in her presence at all school functions and many community events.
Currently, Dr. Morris is the new principal of the Simpson County Achievement Center. She has turned the school into a place where students with severe problems receive the love, care and help they deserve. She is an outstanding educator and a fine professional. It's rare to meet a more giving, caring and compassionate educator who loves students more than herself.