In 2001 Joyce Herron-Taylor, Esq. received the Patrick Francis Daly Memorial Award for her outstanding leadership of Anthony Wayne Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan. She currently serves as the Quality Schools Coordinator for the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA). She directed Detroit Public Schools' Highly Qualified Teacher Assessment and Verification Center and was a Leadership Development Specialist for the district's Center for School Leaders. Joyce has also held Principal Leadership Coaching positions with the Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency.
Reflections on the Comer Process
When I became principal at Anthony Wayne Elementary School in Detroit, I suspected we were a staff of very nice people accustomed to a mentality of "teachers will be able to improve student achievement if teachers' needs are met." Something was missing in our lives, yet it was as if we were looking for an answer, but we did not know the question! With 850 students, no assistant principal, social worker, counselor, or critical support staff, I searched the educational literature to find models for change that would keep our building healthy, efficient, and successful. Once I admitted to the staff that I was absolutely overwhelmed and needed their support, we embraced several initiatives that ultimately clarified for us what we needed to do; we needed to be child-centered, instead of teacher-centered.
Through our research of continuous improvement models, we eventually encountered the Comer Process (School Development Program). Everything we were attempting to piece together was finally presented in one, logical, and magical package. The nine elements made so much sense to us that when the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) offered to provide funding for a few schools to adopt the Comer Process, we easily convinced the grant reviewers that we were ready for implementation.
This model changed my life as an administrator and it continues to influence my style as a change agent for children. If what we are doing isn't positively supporting and impacting the best interests of children and families, it does not deserve significant attention. I shared this advice often with legislators, educators, and organizations whose decisions touch children's lives.
When I left the district, the Wayne staff selected my predecessor, Theresa Matthews. She was already familiar with the School Development Program and continued to drive the Comer Process, even though Detroit Public Schools no longer provided funding implementation support. Once again this year Wayne Elementary School has met the standards to be designated a Skillman Foundation High Performing Good School.
In my present position as Quality Schools Coordinator for the Michigan Association of Public Schools Academies and the Michigan State University Good Schools Resource Center, I am always mindful of the Comer Process. Building strong relationships is one of the cornerstones of my position. Additionally, in our data-driven systems, I focus leaders on other elements of the SDP model, such as assessment and modification of the school program, and effective planning and no-fault problem solving. I am very grateful to have been a part of such a wonderful, child-centered initiative.