News from the Arizona Daily Star

FW principal emphasizes positive roles

By Alexis Huicochea, Arizona Daily Star – January 22, 2012

John Robertson has never been one to run from a problem.

Rather, the longtime educator tends to find himself running toward it.

In 2005, Craycroft Elementary School had been labeled a failing school and was taken over by the state – a situation that no other Tucson-area school had fallen into at the time.

Robertson, who had experience working with struggling schools, was hired to turn the school around.

After just one year, Craycroft Elementary went from failing to performance-plus. A year later, the school was deemed to be highly-performing.

A lot of hard work is involved in such a drastic change, but for Robertson it’s all about the mindset.

“You never go into a situation thinking the job is too big or too overwhelming,” Robertson said. “It’s about creating the right environment. The kids are not the problem; they want to learn and if you put them in the right the environment, they will learn.”

Robertson’s attitude and his ability to turn around a struggling high-needs school have earned him the honor of being named a 2012 Rodel Exemplary Principal.

The Rodel award comes with a cash prize of $5,000 and the opportunity to mentor Rodel Aspiring Principals.

For Robertson, creating a high-achieving school starts with him.

“The principal has to have high expectations for the students, because if the principal doesn’t believe it, nobody else will,” Robertson said.

When he first started working at the school, he also took the time to meet with each teacher to make sure that each understood his expectations and bought into his philosophy to create a quality school.

After six years, Robertson continues his campaign, popping into classrooms daily and giving feedback.

“Even though we’re doing well now, in order to improve we’ve got to continue to work because if you get too comfortable with what’s going on, you can’t get better,” Robertson said. “There’s always something else to do.”

Sunnyside Superintendent Manuel L. Isquierdo, who nominated Robertson for the Rodel honor, admires that work ethic.

“John Robertson has done an extraordinary job in his role over the last six years and has served as a role model in terms of school improvement in his use of data,” Isquierdo said.

“He has provided not only leadership but more of a strategic design for school improvement, which is used throughout the district.”

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at ahuicochea@tucson.com or 573-4175. On Twitter: @AlexisHuicochea