DDSD staffer named ‘Assistant Principal of the Year’

Meet David Douglas School District’s Alice Ott Middle School Assistant Principal LàShawanta Spears – and discover why she’s being presented a state-wide award …

On the border between the Pleasant Valley and Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhoods, Oregon’s “2021 Assistant Principal of the Year”, LàShawanta ‘Taye’ Spears, shows the message she composed on her school’s reader board, addressed to the community.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

In late November, during a virtual staff meeting for Alice Ott Middle School staff, Coalition of Oregon School Administrators (COSA) Executive Director Craig Hawkins made a surprise visit. He announced that LàShawanta ‘Taye’ Spears. of Alice Ott, is the “2021 Assistant Principal of the Year” for the State of Oregon.

Nominated by Melissa Cantwell, a special education teacher at Alice Ott, Spears was selected by her peers in the Oregon Association of Secondary School Administrators – and now becomes one of 50 finalists for the National Assistant Principal of the Year award, Hawkins told those at the meeting.

Assistant Principal Taye Spears heads back into the school. The public is still not allowed inside, due to coronavirus guidelines, but staff members are allowed to enter.

“Among other attributes, Mrs. Spears effectively uses an inclusive model to raise the scores of students with behavior issues, while decreasing referrals and suspensions – allowing these students to gain independence, while advocating for themselves in the classroom,” Cantwell wrote of her nominee. “She couples this with high expectations for both staff and students and centers professional development on equity, inclusion and de-escalation.

“Inclusion, equity, and making school a safe place where students and staff want to be, is a hallmark of Mrs. Spears’ leadership,” Cantwell wrote. “Her professional growth and leadership among her peers reflect this commitment.”

Spears has been called an 18-year “rising star” in the David Douglas School District (DDSD) since she became a AmeriCorps Mentor at Gilbert Heights Elementary, back in 2001. When her volunteer term ended, Gilbert Heights hired Spears as an instructional assistant, and she moved to the high school’s Fir Ridge Campus the following year, in the same role.

In 2008, after earning her Master’s Degree in school counseling from George Fox University, Spears was hired to be a licensed counselor at Fir Ridge. She was elevated to Fir Ridge Assistant Principal in 2014, and moved to Alice Ott as Assistant Principal in 2017.

This award is validation that her vocation was the right choice, Taye Spears says.

Asked what this award means to her, Spears told East Portland News, “The acknowledgement of a job well done – it’s a validation that one has made the right choice. Receiving this award was just that, I’ve made the right choice.

“When graduating from PSU in 2001 with a BA in Speech Communications, I was unsure of my career pathway,” Spears conceded. “When given an opportunity to serve as an AmeriCorps volunteer in the David Douglas School District, I quickly found my calling.”

Then, returning to school to obtain her school counseling license – with the support of the late Sue Summers, Ron Knight, and her mother, Earlene Spears-Lambert – “I found my calling, and today I can say, I made the right choice,” she said. “The award highlights what I most love about the district: Our families. Without our families, the award would have little purpose; I serve because I care.”

Assistant Principal Taye Spears says she plans to ‘keep doing what she loves’.

Asked her personal feelings about receiving the award, Spears replied, “I’m humbled by the experience, and honored to have received this award; the award is a reminder to keep doing what I love.

“[The lesson is,] even when things appear uncertain, never lose sight of your goals and your passion. Lastly, this award captures the DDSD Mission!” Spears exclaimed, as she went on to quote it:

“Our mission at David Douglas is to provide meaningful, equitable, and highly effective instruction so each student grows and thrives socially, emotionally and academically. Through supportive communities of learners, David Douglas staff fosters the whole child to be a force for positive change in the global society. We are committed to preparing our students for their future by providing high-quality, well-rounded educational programs both in and out of the classroom. While we cannot predict the future, we know it is essential that we support our students to ensure they will Learn Grow and Thrive.”

Summing up, Spears acknowledged, “This year has been a unique year, to say the least.

“We’ve had our challenges, we’ve had some good days, and yet through it all – we never lost sight of what’s important: David Douglas Community, you are the reason! I’m honored to serve in the David Douglas Community, and thank you for your support.”

Currently it’s planned that Spears will be honored at the annual COSA Seaside Conference in June, and at the Statewide Principals’ Conference in October.  She will also be honored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

© 2020 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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