It’s 9 a.m. on a Friday in June at Gooch Elementary School. Students have left the building for the summer, but principal Martha Bujanda remains in the quiet, empty school, whose hallways are decorated with colorful “WELCOME” banners made out of construction paper.
She’s finishing up some last-minute paperwork, pleasantly worn out after her successful first year at Gooch. In just one year, the students improved 19 percent overall in reading, 17 percent in math, 15 percent in science, and 51 percent in writing on the latest STAAR exam.
Bujanda was brought in by Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles in January 2013 and is part of a new class of principals who have been trained at Teaching Trust, a hands-on organization that partners with SMU, its Cox School of Business, and the George W. Bush Presidential Center to provide educators with real-world experience.
“It was a critical component of everything that we’ve been doing,” Bujanda said. “It played a huge role in us being able to accomplish what we accomplished here this year.”
Also contributing to the efforts to improve test scores at Gooch were students from St. Mark’s, Hockaday, and Greenhill, who volunteered their Saturdays and spring breaks to help tutor Gooch scholars.
“Our students just loved it and they immediately saw the impact they were making,” said Sally Rosenberg, Greenhill’s director of community service and service learning. “This particular school is a model for what can be done in DISD. This is the way it should be done. It’s the perfect storm.”
The staff at Gooch focused on data-driven instruction, feedback and observation, as well as heightened academic and behavioral expectations from students. Last year’s reading scores were at 38 percent, so a large part of the new curriculum focused on improving reading and writing skills.
Bujanda is proud of her students’ accomplishments this year, but she has big plans for them that reach beyond their elementary education.
“It’s about creating leaders who are going to challenge the status quo and create a better society and world in the end,” Bujanda said. “Thank you to everybody who helped us get here, and it will only get better.”
This story appears in the August issue of Preston Hollow People, on stands now.