Alex Haas: Washington State NAESP National Distinguished Principal
“Lean Into Every Strength!”
McMicken Heights Elementary’s Alex Haas Embraces Diversity to Maximize Student – and Teacher – Potential
Evaluation Criteria: Creating a Culture; Ensuring School Safety; Planning with Data; Aligning Curriculum; Improving Instruction; Managing Resources; Engaging Families & Communities; Closing the Gap
Sometimes, the true reflection of a school leader is not found in the school curriculum or more traditional administrative duties. Because, as the kids will tell you, sometimes it’s really about who’s willing to have lunch with you.
Walking through the cafeteria at McMicken Heights Elementary (Highline PS), Alexandria “Alex” Haas’ students are watching. And her presence is both noticed – and celebrated.
“What makes her a great principal is that she’s always in the lunchroom to check in with us,” said one McMicken student with a shy smile on her face.
It’s those small moments of personal connection — the knowledge that an adult (and not just any adult — the principal!) is taking the time to listen and check in — that can make a difference in a child’s day.
“I think one of the reasons she is is her work around inclusion for both staff and students,” said McMicken teacher Spencer Flanagan. “She’s worked to make sure that everyone has equal access to all opportunities in our building and she’s always available and ready to talk and problem-solve.”
Haas’ instructional leadership has garnered her school significant attention. Under her leadership, strong collaboration is apparent through professional learning communities (PLCs), teaching teams, and partnerships with families. As a result, the school has made significant gains.
Haas is the driving force for McMicken’s shared vision for excellence, and as a result, the school has been recognized for its impact on student achievement, inclusion, family engagement, and more.
Since 2014-15, student SBA proficiency rates jumped substantially, from 37.3% to 55.3% in ELA and 25.7 to 44.2% in Math. McMicken serves a diverse community with 88% of students identifying as students of color and 41% identifying as multilingual learners.
“I think what makes Alexandria an incredible leader is that she invests in her teachers,” said assistant principal Jodi Robertson.” We know that when there are strong teachers there’s strong instruction and that obviously results in student academic and student growth.”
Haas has also built a strong partnership with families through family advisory councils and Academic Parent Teacher Teams, gathering input from families to drive the work on diversity and equity at McMicken. She designs professional learning to support McMicken’s staff in embracing culture and identity in their practice while tapping into family and community knowledge to support this work. Haas is the driving force for McMicken’s shared vision for excellence, and as a result, the school has been recognized for its impact on student achievement, inclusion, family engagement, and more.
Now, Haas herself has been recognized for her work as this year’s Washington State NAESP National Distinguished Principal.
“Alex’s strong leadership and encouragement have helped push my practice since my first day as a classroom teacher. She has helped me become a more effective teacher and our school become a more inclusive place for all students,” added Flanagan. “She is always there when I need support, but also trusts me to know when to step back and encourages me to take risks and make my own choices.”
Asked to name three of her favorite big accomplishments as principal, Haas mentions breaking down barriers to an inclusive culture, impacting student growth, and developing a more equitable partnership with families.
“I try to be as transparent as I can about all the variables that I might be considering or addressing in any given situation just because I know that people come into situations with their perspective and their perspective is valid,” she said.
“Lean into every strength! There are so many amazing strengths in every community and if you start with strengths and build from there, you can make leaps and bounds.”
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Washington Principal | Volume 3 – 2021-22