Andrea D. Rains, Skyline Elementary School, Stillwater
2016 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Elementary/Secondary AdministrationThe winner of the Medal for Excellence in Elementary/Secondary Administration is Andrea D. Rains, principal of Stillwater’s Skyline Elementary School, a Title 1 school serving more than 500 students. As the self-described “lead learner” at Skyline, Rains has led a transformation in school culture, instructional practices and student performance, taking the school’s Academic Performance Index from a D when she arrived in 2010 to an A+ by 2014.
“Andrea never made excuses for our school not succeeding,” said PTA member and nominator Sherri Buntin. “Instead, she made it a top priority to find innovative ways to make our school excel.”
Rains’ first priority was building trusting relationships with individual students, parents, staff and teachers. She met with each teacher to learn their strengths and weaknesses, and boldly shifted staff into positions where their gifts and skills could be maximized to benefit students. Rains also provided meaningful professional development opportunities to help teachers improve instruction.
“I appreciate Mrs. Rains’ willingness to take risks and push us to question the status quo,” said teacher Julie Farrington. “She is not satisfied with ‘good enough’ and would never allow her teachers to be either.”
Among her strategies, Rains also implemented Data Boards to analyze student data in reading and math and led monthly grade-level meetings with faculty to plan interventions for struggling students and push all students to higher learning levels. She hired reading tutors and established peer mentoring programs. When Rains first arrived at Skyline, the upper grade playground consisted of one swing and a basketball goal. Through community partnerships and grants, the school has added a fitness zone, musical instrument gazebo, a 30-person play-scape, an outdoor classroom and amphitheater.
As the school’s Lead Learner, Rains has implemented the Principal’s Award for students who meet math, reading and other academic goals. Through the “Principal’s Gift of Words Program,” she purchases a book for every first and second-grader in the school and reads the book to the students, reminding them about her own passion for reading.
“Mrs. Rains has worked diligently over the past six years to change our thinking about student performance and success,” Farrington added. “As a result, we are now a top-performing school!”