HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – When Alexis Bradley enrolled in the master’s of educational leadership program at LSU Shreveport, her goal was to become a principal after graduation.
Bradley got that call early, assuming the lead position at Academy Charter Middle School where she currently worked, before she even walked across the graduation stage this December. So Bradley juggled her first year of being a principal in August with the final semester of graduate school, roles in which she excelled simultaneously.
“My success in the classroom was great, but I wanted to have a bigger impact,” said Bradley, who assumed leadership over the middle school this August. “I knew I wanted to be a trailblazer in leading staff and scholars to excellence. I have a great cabinet team that works with me to make sure our directives and vision are carried out daily.”
A balancing act ensued as the “super-organized early riser” Bradley often worked from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in her principal role while making time for coursework before and after school. However, doing both at the same time also allowed her to implement learning strategies as she was studying in the program.
“Two of the strategies I learned – to be seen by both teachers and students throughout the day, and have an open-door policy,” Bradley said. “At every transition, the scholars see me in the hallway saying hello or giving redirection. I learned about creating a professional learning community, and an open-door policy shows that I’m willing to listen and engage about different teaching techniques and new programs that will enhance our pedagogy. (Teachers) know I’m there to support them in their efforts to bring academic success to their scholars.”
Bradley holds professional development sessions every Wednesday as well as weekly common planning meetings, allowing teachers to engage with each other. “Teachers tried new strategies with their teammates, and they watched each other teach as a team,” said Bradley, who credited the LSUS program with deepening her understanding of key topics. “You can pique their curiosity with strategies they’ll want to try in their respective classrooms."
“I wanted to move into educational leadership because I believe in helping other teachers be successful in the subject they teach and to help make a difference in their scholars’ lives. It’s important to make an impact on these teachers as well.”
Classroom success is something in which Bradley has a track record. In her first year as a teacher at Academy Charter, the passing rate doubled on the eighth-grade science state test. Bradley developed the school’s first honors biology class, which boasted a 100 percent passing rate every year in which she taught it. That success continued when she assumed an assistant principal role in charge of English and language arts, writing, the humanities, and science – serving as an academic coach in those subjects.
LSUS faculty member Dr. Nelson Coulter said he’s not surprised Academy Charter plucked Bradley early to lead the way. “Alexis was a premier student in our program, and she was engaged (and engaging), committed (and diligent), trustworthy (and trusting),” said Coulter, the program director of the Master of Education programs. “As a former school superintendent and high school principal, I can tell you Alexis possesses all the qualities needed not only to survive but be successful as a school principal.”
Bradley had plenty of support from staff and the leadership in the Academy Charter system. Founder Bishop Barrington Goldson told Bradley that she “not only exudes excellence,” but that she’s “a role model for the students that (she) serves.” Staff have told Bradley that watching her complete her master’s degree and the knowledge she’s shared from that experience has motivated them to further their education. Bradley engages parents with a weekly newsletter, but it’d be ideal to increase parent involvement by attending workshops to better understand the curriculum. Family involvement was a strength in Bradley’s own life, and when Bradley made the trip to Shreveport to personally walk across the graduation stage, her mother Brenda, and her sister Aja traveled from Sacramento and Atlanta, respectively, to celebrate with her.
“I’m a first-generation graduate in my family who obtained a master’s degree,” Bradley said. “It was important for my family to honor me by showing support for my academic achievements. It meant so much to me to have them there. My mother is so very special to me – she made sacrifices in life to make sure that I received a world-class education. My sister has always been a cheerleader for me … and she reminds me that ‘this is what I’m meant to do.’”