Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kaysville principal earns national kudos

Kaysville principal earns national kudos
Carol Lindsay | Special to The Tribune Kathleen Bagley performs a “Yippee Dance" with students at Snow Horse Elementary in Kaysville. Bagley was recognized during National Principals Month as one of 61 outstanding administrators nationwide. As principal, she has stressed healthy living and service, as well as excellence in the classroom.
Combine Harvard, West Point and Disney World and what do you get? A place that is challenging, safe and super-duper fun.
That’s the kind of school Kathleen Bagley envisioned when she — and a number of co-workers — created Snow Horse Elementary in Kaysville. Indeed, she “had the privilege of dreaming a school into existence.”
Now, the principal is getting national kudos for keeping that school strong.
Bagley was named one of 61 outstanding administrators during National Principals Month for her efforts in sustaining strong schools. The honor came during an awards banquet in late October in Washington, D.C.
“Principals provide vitally important leadership that creates a lasting foundation for learning, drives school and student performance and shapes the long-term impact of school-improvement efforts,” wrote Gail Connelly, executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, in a statement, “all which undeniably bolster the nation’s opportunities for future prosperity.”
The national distinguished principals award — established in 1984 — honors administrators who make superior contributions to their schools.
Bagley has shepherded Snow Horse Elementary since it began. When she was hired as the school’s head in 2007, there was no school. She literally built Snow Horse from the ground up, guiding construction and hiring a staff that shared her vision.
Her goal was to create a school that would provide a good workplace for teachers and a productive learning environment for students. She wanted people to be happy, but challenged.
“For good or bad, I hired people just like me,” Bagley said. “They are passionate, opinionated and hard-working. We have a standard of excellence that is pervasive.”
Snow Horse isn’t the first school Bagley had overseen.
Her first administrative post was at Jennie P. Stewart Elementary in Centerville, where she served for five years. Her experience at that school — which offered services for children with disabilities — shaped her vision for Snow Horse.
“I saw the way the kids interacted with children with disabilities,” Bagley said. “It made them more compassionate.”
Consequently, Bagley asked to have a similar unit at Snow Horse that would provide services to children with cognitive disabilities. The school also has a learning center for students with behavioral challenges.
Bagley takes pride in her school’s ability to provide for special-needs students. Most of those children are taught in mainstream classes. Only about 5 percent of the school’s 800 students receive their education in a structured environment.
“Our teachers have been amazing, and they model acceptance,” she said.
Other traits Bagley has tried to instill in the school’s culture are health and service.
The school is recognized as a Gold Medal School because of its emphasis on healthy living. For example, the school gave pedometers to all of its students and staff to track how much they walk. Snow Horse also focuses its rewards on activities rather than junk food.
In one first-grade classroom, Bagley performed a so-called “Yippee Dance” with students to celebrate their mastery of reading words.
“There are lots of celebrations without junk,” she said. “When we have food, we have healthy alternatives. There are tours, scooter races and games. There is always something to look forward to.”
As for service, the principal has dedicated a school wall to recognizing classes and students who do projects. One group of students earned more than $5,000 for helping impoverished families build mud huts in war-torn Uganda.
Becky Smith, an office secretary, describes Bagley as “a person with sincere motives.”
“She really cares about parents, students and faculty and can balance it all,” Smith said. “It is an honor to work with her.”
Bagley was awarded a plaque and a bell as part of her recognition as a national distinguished principal. She also met with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and toured the White House.
One of the most entertaining memories of her journey happened during her White House tour. She was served a dessert filled with chocolate mousse and berries.
“They have no hesitation,” Bagley mused, “in rewarding teachers with food.”
What’s in a name?
How did Snow Horse Elementary get its name? The following explanation was given in a booklet Principal Kathleen Bagley distributed to students:
“There is a very special place shaped like a horse above Kaysville and Layton made of deep gullies and ridges high up on the north side of the mountains. … You can’t see the horse when it is buried in snow, but when May arrives, we always watch for warm days when most of the snow is gone, and we can spot the snow horse on the mountain. In the olden days, pioneers used the snow horse to tell them when it was safe to plant their tender spring crops.”

© 2011 The Salt Lake Tribune
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