HALSEY — Amanda O’Brien, principal of Central Linn Elementary School, has been named 2017 Administrator of the Year by the Oregon Small Schools Association. The association, which serves as an advocate for the benefits of rural education and small schools across the state, recognizes one school administrator each year who excels in his or her leadership position. Criteria include integrity, leadership, commitment to community, scholarship and student achievement. O’Brien will receive her award at the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators Conference at Seaside in June.
O’Brien has led the Central Linn School for five years. When she arrived, the school was ranked in the bottom 15 percent of Oregon schools based on academic achievement and had been one of 61 Oregon Title I schools to receive the label of “focus school.” According to Superintendent Brian Gardner, O’Brien’s response to hearing about the status of her new school was to exhale and say that there was nowhere to go except up.
She began working to improve school culture, creating opportunities for parent and community involvement and professional outreach and creating a schoolwide focus on rigor, learning standards and academic assessment.
“Amanda demonstrated a willingness to learn from the best practices of others and used collaborative efforts to gain powerful practices for her school,” Gardner told association officials. Under O’Brien’s leadership, Central Linn Elementary School has risen to the 89th percentile in school rankings; when compared to similar schools demographically, Central Linn now is in the top 3 percent of Oregon schools.
O’Brien said one key was building strong relationships between staff members. “When I arrived here five years ago, the staff had seen leadership come and go and relied heavily on themselves,” she said. “It took the first few years to build relationships so teachers could even feel comfortable knowing that I was here with (and for) them to support student learning. Our district has given teachers the tools they need to do the job that we expect from them and this is one of the contributing factors to our school’s success.” An emphasis on achievement was another factor, she said: “Our school has no intention of settling for mediocrity.”
Staff members have spent five years aligning content to standards, testing according to those standards, and teaching to meet the needs of all learners, O’Brien added. “Again, this is not an easy thing to accomplish, especially when teachers are required to do so much; provide basic needs, parent, counsel, instruct, coach … the list goes on.”
“Receiving this award is a representation of many people’s hard work and dedication,” O’Brien said. “I am proud of all of my staff and the focus we’ve had over the five years.”