Longtime Gale Pond Alamo STEAM Academy Principal Regina Lee is making a move to Burnet Elementary, officially starting July 1.
This is Lee’s 20th year with Ector County ISD. A Post native, Lee earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and human development from Texas Tech University.
From there, she went through a three-year grant program that resulted in a master’s of educational leadership through University of Texas Permian Basin.
She has served as a teacher, assistant principal and principal through the years.
“There were 40 teachers in ECISD at one point that participated in a grant through UTPB. We had three professors just to build the administrative pool. And so 40 of us participated in a three-year grant program and I got my master’s of education, educational leadership through UTPB,” Lee said.
She was an assistant principal at Sam Houston Elementary for four years and just completed her ninth year at Alamo.
Lee will replace Maria Serrano at Burnet.
“It was explained to me that Burnet was projected to have made a lot of growth and they just wanted a principal that could maintain and continue that growth,” Lee said.
Executive Director of Leadership Cynthia Retana said Lee will do a good job at Burnet.
“Ms. Lee is an experienced leader who has led her former campus to great student achievement and she will no doubt do the same at Burnet,” Retana said.
Burnet and Bowie Middle School are RISE campuses.
RISE stands for the Rapidly Improving School Effectiveness program.
The ECISD website says, RISE is “an initiative geared to bolster academic performance through efforts far beyond those regularly offered.”
“With a focus on strategic staffing and student support, the RISE program identifies specific staff members who can best meet the individual needs of students at participating campuses, and then carries out a series of unique action steps to ensure that students’ academic, social, and emotional needs are met,” the site details.
ECISD is one of several districts in Texas that make up the fourth cohort to implement the initiative, which is “modeled after Dallas ISD’s Accelerating Campus Excellence (ACE) program – which aims to provide students in high-needs schools with a proven platform for closing achievement and opportunity gaps. Other districts which have implemented the ACE program have seen increased academic performance in core content areas, improved attendance, and a stronger parent-school connection,” the site said.
Lee said Burnet also has Pathways to Teaching and Opportunity Culture, “an innovative approach to staffing that multiplies the impact of highly effective teachers, thereby improving student performance,” the ECISD website says.
“We’ll add a lot of new staff to the school this year, as well. Some pretty significant teachers stayed that did help increase the growth … so we’re starting at a good place. I just see it getting better,” Lee said.
She added that for state accountability, once you take steps to show academic improvement, “It’s almost like it’s time for the hard part to start then because then you have to continue to grow.”
“… Sometimes it’s harder after that big growth spurt to maintain that and continue that. That’s … to me when the rubber hits the road,” Lee said.
By the time she left Alamo, it was in the top three schools behind Reagan and Hays elementaries.
Lee said she focused on content, what students are learning and showing what they were learning.
“So often teachers … say things like I taught it and I’m like OK, but they didn’t learn it. We’re going to focus on what they learned and not just what you said.”
Building on what has already been established is one of her goals. She’s also looking forward to being at a neighborhood school.
Her children went through school at Gonzales Elementary, which was also a neighborhood school. Lee wants the students to feel that sense of belonging. She hopes the campus can become a community resource for the neighborhood.
Burnet averages 400 to 450 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Lee would like to increase those numbers as the campus is physically large.
She is supposed to have 24 teachers.
Alamo was the first nationally certified STEAM school in ECISD and a lot of Texas. With advancements in technology, Lee said she believes all students need science, technology, engineering, art and math.
“Everything is moving so fast that all kids need STEAM at this point and all kids can benefit from those things,” Lee said.
She added that students, especially in the lower elementary grades, need to be able to think outside the box and collaborate.
“… Then you have to mix in with those things … tenacity, not giving up and self-esteem. They’re exposed to things through social media that there’s tons that they can learn on YouTube. We’re going to have to use some of that and then handwriting,” Lee said.”We’re going to have to put all those pieces together …”
Prekindergarten and kindergarten students coming to school know their colors, letters and how to win awards.
“But then you ask them their name and you ask them what’s their favorite color and they haven’t made that connection between knowing red, blue and yellow and that’s a color. I can have a favorite color? So it’s bridging that gap between technology and how to interact with people in a room,” Lee said.
“Our little ones, they’re smart but … they’re missing dialogue. They’re missing conversation …,” Lee said.
But they did have plenty of grit when they returned in person. They listened to the rules and minded their teachers.
“You could not have asked for a more grateful group of kids to just not have been at home, to see other people,” Lee said. “… It was neat to watch.”
She noted that she has not started a new school year at a new campus in a long time where she didn’t know the students.
“Once I meet them, I’ll have a better understanding of the needs of the school. It’s been interesting and I’ve learned a lot just hearing different perspectives …,” Lee added.
“I am excited. I think it’s going to be kind of a learning curve going from magnet to non-magnet. Learning is learning and so I just want to make sure that this is a school that if the kids at Burnet could apply to come here that they would want to come here. I think that’s something that all schools, neighborhood or magnet, should have,” Lee said.
Growing up, Lee wanted to be a lawyer. She has four children and two grandchildren. Both of her grandsons go to Alamo.
“… I was a teen mom, and so after starting school, I realized how long that was going to take. And I was like I just want to work while my kids are in school …,” Lee said.
“… Luckily, being a principal is a lot like being a lawyer. I think you have a lot more people to answer to,” Lee said.
She finds it easy to make decisions if it’s for the benefit of children. Lee said she looks for staff that will be the best they can be for students.
“That’s why I’m very particular about who’s always around the kids because those are somebody’s kids,” Lee said.