Andrea Dennis thought it was odd, as she walked down the halls of Scarborough Model Middle School, that the classrooms were quiet. When she got to the media center, she found out why.
Dennis, who is in her third year as Scarborough’s principal, was surprised by state and local officials and her faculty on Wednesday with news that she has been named the Middle School Principal of the Year in the state by the Alabama Association of Secondary School Principals.
“I had no idea this was going to happen,” Dennis said, “but I’m very honored that CLAS saw something in me to say that our school was transforming, and for us to be recognized, because this is a team effort at our school.”
The AASSP is an affiliate association of the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS).
Under Dennis’ leadership, Scarborough was one of five MCPSS schools to improve two letter grades on this year’s state report cards, pulling its score up from an F to a C. She credited her staff and students and said they will continue working to improve even more.
“This took all of the stakeholders at our school – our teachers, our students – persevering, despite where anyone started, just making sure we had high expectations and high goals. And we accomplished it together,” Dennis said. “We’re not going to settle for anything less than that A. We’re striving for that.”
Along with the quiet classrooms, Dennis’ first clue about the surprise came when she was met by the Scarborough cheerleaders and Blount High marching band in the hall, along with students carrying a banner proclaiming the award. They formed a parade through the halls before ending at the media center, where Dennis’ family was waiting along with MCPSS Superintendent Chresal Threadgill, Deputy Superintendent of Academics Dr. Lakesha Brackins, AASSP Executive Director Vic Wilson, other MCPSS, AASSP and CLAS representatives and Scarborough faculty members.
“I cannot think of an administrator more deserving to be named Middle School Principal of the Year,” Threadgill said. “From my first conversation with Mrs. Dennis, I was convinced that great things were in store for her. She is driven, she is dedicated and holds all the qualities of a transcending leader.”
Along with the AASSP, the award is sponsored by Curriculum Associates and Interior Elements, which will provide an office makeover for Dennis as part of her award. Dennis will be recognized at an awards luncheon during the CLAS Convention in Montgomery in June, and will also be recognized at the AASSP/AAMSP Fall Conference in November.
Previously an assistant principal at Theodore High, Dennis became principal at Scarborough in 2016, when the school was reconstituted into the county’s first Model Middle School. As a Model Middle School, Scarborough offers more mentoring and intervention opportunities, as well as rigorous classes and expanded electives.
“She had her choice of jobs,” said Murphy High Principal Joe Toomey, who serves as the AASSP’s Vice President. “She could have gone anywhere she wanted in this county and she picked this place, because she loves you and she has a heart for you. … That’s the kind of leader you have.”
Dennis, who will become the AASSP Vice President when Toomey ascends to the presidency next year, thanked her husband and family, staff, students, AASSP representatives and MCPSS administrators for their confidence in her.
“You don’t always get a superintendent who will give you the room to innovate and try new things and take risks, and have the confidence that you can do this and not stand over your shoulder every step of the way,” she said. “Mr. Threadgill is a phenomenal leader and Dr. Brackins right along with him.”