5 inspirational school leaders who are prioritizing equity, safety and quality teaching

"We've learned to really to seek input from students," says Kori Crawford, a principal in Austin ISD
By: | October 20, 2021
Kori Crawford

Kori Crawford

Students enrolled in the SOAR class get unique opportunities to be involved in the decision-making process at Crockett Early College High School in Austin ISD.

The course helps students find their voice on equity, inclusion and other local issues, says Principal Kori Crawford, who was recently named one of two “Champions for School Climate” by The Aspen Institute Education & Society Program because of SOAR and similar initiatives.

“We’ve seen an increase in data where students feel more respected by adults on our campus,” Crawford says.

Since becoming principal more than four years ago, Crawford says she has worked closely with the district’s equity and social-emotional learning departments to provide diversity and restorative justice training to staff. This has included encouraging staff to reflect on the role race has played in their lives as well as reading books about being anti-racist.

The school has also participated in Speak Up training that guides teachers and staff in taking action on equity issues. That program will soon be extended to students so they are “empowered and learn skills to speak up against any racist comments or bias language that comes up,” Crawford says.

Students can also serve on a school equity committee and panels, Crawford says.

“We’ve learned to really to seek input from students, and we learn about the diverse learners that sit in all of our classrooms,” she says. “The cultural proficiency curriculum we’re working on in our classrooms is something we’re constantly revisiting, and just checking in with students every day about how they’re doing.”

Empowering English learners

The Aspen Institute Education & Society Program “Champions for School Climate” initiative highlights the work of school leaders who create positive and healthy school cultures geared toward student success. These educators prioritize equity, emotional and physical safety, supportive relationships, quality teaching and learning, and a sense of belonging.

Elena Fabunan, principal of Global Community High School in Nevada’s Clark County School District, Nevada, was also named a “Champions for School Climate.” All of the students at her school identify as English-language learners. The high school collects school climate data through anonymous student surveys.

Aspen Education also recognized the following finalists for the award:

  • Jennifer Black, principal of Lincoln Elementary School, Clark County School District, Nevada
  • Harold Border, chief of high schools, Orange County Public Schools, Florida
  • Mimi Quan, principal of Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon Valley USD, California