Washington Post Announces Winners of Education Awards in District of Columbia

SCOTT CARTLAND (Courtesy Of District Of Columbia Public Schools - Courtesy Of District Of Columbia Public Schools)
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By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 14, 2009

One teacher is a Filipino immigrant; another gave up a lucrative corporate career to enter the classroom.

One principal gave up leadership of a comfortable, high-achieving school in Northwest Washington, and the other labors every day to try to keep her teachers from burning out.

These are the D.C. educators recognized as outstanding teachers and principals with the 2009 awards presented by The Washington Post Educational Foundation:

Scott Cartland

-- Principal, Webb/Wheatley Education Campus.

A few months ago at a staff retreat, Elizabeth Whisnant, principal at the District's Mann Elementary School, rolled her eyes at what seemed to be a particularly lame leadership exercise. Principals were asked to sort themselves according to several descriptors, including "microscope," "beach ball" and "puppy."

But when she saw Scott Cartland as one of four puppies, it made perfect sense, she said.

"These men were affirming the importance of relationship as a foundation for effective leadership," she wrote in her letter nominating Cartland for The Washington Post's Distinguished Educational Leadership Award. "They see themselves as persistently present and unmistakable in message. . . . They carry no hidden agenda and approach all constituents with an affect of eagerness, warmth and a desire to engage."

Cartland was humming along comfortably at the helm of Janney Elementary School, a high-achieving school in Northwest, when new Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee called in 2007. They had met in the early 1990s as fledgling Teach for America recruits in Baltimore -- "before she sprouted a cape," Cartland said.

She asked him to consider taking on one of the District's many struggling schools, and a year later he landed at Webb/Wheatley in Northeast's troubled Trinidad neighborhood. By all accounts, the school was in chaos, with less than 15 percent of its students testing at proficiency levels in reading and math.

Cartland, 40, does not profess to have worked academic miracles this year. But admirers say that he has used his inner puppy to begin repairing what was a broken school culture. Some of it has required more pit bull than poodle. He replaced 80 percent of the faculty and established alternative classrooms for disruptive students.

"We wanted the classrooms to be sane and calm," he said. "We needed to make it into a school again."

He has begun to attack low achievement levels at the pre-kindergarten through seventh grade school by introducing a "balanced literacy" program that puts small libraries in every class and matches books more carefully to student reading levels.

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