November 26, 2012

At East End school, improvement a matter of principal

Marcia Gendron turns a low-achieving school around by focusing on building relationships.

By Tom Bell
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Marcia Gendron, principal of East End Community School in Portland, gets a hug from third-grader Maureen Fitzgerald at the start of a school day. Most of the 410 students come from racially diverse and poor neighborhoods.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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The approach is paying off. Although test scores are still below city averages, the scores have improved enough to meet federal standards for annual progress.

In 2009, for example, only 17 percent of the school's fourth-graders were proficient in math. Two years later, when those same students were in sixth grade, the percentage of students proficient in math jumped to 37 percent.

Those same students also improved reading scores, with 61 percent proficient in fourth grade and 76 percent proficient in sixth grade.

Just by walking the halls, one can see a dramatic change in the school, says Leah Coplon, who has a son in third grade and a daughter who attended the school from kindergarten through fifth grade.

The atmosphere is less chaotic, she says, and the children seem connected to adults and looked after.

While Gendron has offered a vision, she spent her time initially observing and listening, Coplon said.

"That is what impresses me about Marcia," Coplon says. "She didn't react and start doing stuff. She stayed back and got a feel for our community, our strengths and our needs, and then she went forward making changes that would really last."

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:


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