It Takes a Village

It Takes a Village

New principal at George Washington Middle School wants to involve the community.

For Keisha Boggan, the biggest challenge in taking the job of principal at George Washington Middle School will be to seek more community involvement. Boggan has a long-term relationship with the school — attending classes there as a child, beginning her teaching career there as a young adult and taking her first administrative job there in 2002. Now that she is in charge, she says that parents and the business community should be more involved in the day-to-day education of Alexandria’s middle-school students.

“One area where we can improve is getting every part of our community involved,” Boggan said. “We need to do whatever we can do to help kids see that opportunities are out there.”

A native of Alexandria, Boggan received a bachelor’s degree in political science from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, N.C. She holds two master’s degrees — one in public administration and one in secondary education, both from the University of Akron in Ohio. After returning to Alexandria in 1994, she began teaching in Alexandria City Public Schools.

Her first job was teaching sixth grade world history at George Washington Middle School, a position she held for five years. In 2002, she became an assistant principal at the school, where she oversaw the sixth grade. In 2004, she was named associate principal in charge of curriculum and instruction for the school. In that capacity, she has overseen the school’s motivational exercises aimed at improving Standards of Learning scores.

“We wanted to get students motivated, but not overanxious, about the SOL tests,” Boggan said. “So we looked at released questions from previous years.”

The motivational exercises were modeled on popular television shows, employing pop culture references that would be relevant to most middle school students. The sixth-grade exercises were patterned on “Jeopardy,” where the answers were in the form of questions. Seventh graders participated in an “Amazing Race” and the eighth-grade game was called “SOL Survivor.”

“If they won, they got a spirit stick,” Boggan said. “It was like a giant rain stick, and the kids really wanted their teams to win so they could get the spirit stick.”

GEORGE WASHINGTON Middle School has about 1,000 students in three grades. More than half of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and 21 percent of the students speak English as a second language.

Test scores show drastic disparities between white and minority students — especially in reading ability.

For example, eighth grade scores last year show that American Indian students had a 25 percent pass rate in reading; black students had a 57 percent pass rate; Hispanic students also had a 57 percent pass rate and Asian students had a 60 percent pass rate. These students’ scores were consistently lower than minorities in other parts of the state — and drastically lower than white students at the same school, who scored 99 percent on reading tests.

“That means we have a lot of work to do,” Boggan said. “Motivation is a big factor.”

As principal, Boggan said that she would like to see more community involvement in the school — with parents and business leaders increasing participation in day-to-day activities. That’s why the school created “Spanish Basics Day,” a back-to-school event for Spanish speaking parents to learn more about the school. Boggan also said that local businesses could provide opportunities for shadowing, mentoring and career development.

“There’s a role for everyone,” Boggan said.

THE ANNOUNCEMENT that Boggan would take charge of the school brought positive comments from community and school leaders. Alice Kennedy, co-president of the school’s PTA, said that she was very pleased with the selection.

“Keisha Boggan is an excellent choice to be principal of George Washington Middle School,” Kennedy said. “It is hard to speak for all the families at GW, but our family knows that Keisha Boggan has the knowledge, the experience, the love and the commitment to take GW to the next level.”

Superintendent Rebecca Perry said that she was impressed with Boggan’s tenure as the second-in-command at the school.

“Ms. Boggan has proven that she is an excellent leader and administrator,” Perry said. “I am confident that she will continue, and build upon, the success at GW.”