West Side School Leader Awarded Principal of the Year

Last Friday Denise Missry of Asa Messer Elementary School was honored as Rhode Island Elementary School Principal of the Year in a lively celebration that included the entire school community along with Mayor Jorge Elorza, city and state elected officials, education leaders and west side community members.

Every year the Rhode Island Association of School Principals "honors school principals who place student learning at the center, set high expectations for student development, oversee standards based teaching and learning, utilize data in making decisions, and engage the community in the shared responsibility for student achievement," according to its website.

A parent at the celebration added that Ms. Missry "has an uncanny ability to set high standards and expectations, but also display warmth and compassion. Her focus on school culture has created a community with a sense of identity and value."

RIASP's criteria for selection is based on interviews and written testimony submitted by students, parents and community members, teachers, and administrators, and focuses on a principal's personal excellence, collaborative leadership, personalization as well as curriculum, instruction and assessment.

Denise Missry has been Principal of Asa Messer Elementary for 15 years. According to a teacher who spoke at the ceremony, Missry has created a "professional learning community" through her leadership, a shared vision and a collaborative spirit among her staff and faculty that directly impacts teaching and learning at the school.

Previous to her honor as Rhode Island Principal of the Year, Denise Missry was recognized as Providence's Principal of the Year in 2014.

FUN FACT: The West Side's other elementary school, Carl Lauro Elementary, also has a Rhode Island Principal of the Year honoree at its helm: Principal Christopher Kennedy.

A Bit of Recent History

Four years ago, west side community members rallied behind Asa Messer Elementary School during a tumultuous time in Providence education when the school, among others, had been threatened with closure. The school ultimately wasn't closed, but was moved from its historic building on Messer Street to what had been a worse-for-the-wear former middle school.

The community group began working with Principal Missry and teachers to help with the school’s transition to its new building. In a rare offering, the City allowed Missry and this group of residents, parents and teachers to work with architects of the new school site to design a space specifically with elementary students in mind. Classrooms were enlarged and filled with light, a clever color scheme was created throughout the halls to help with navigating the school, and a playground was added.

This opportunity allowed a rich and collaborative school-community partnership to blossom. Some of these neighbors' children attend Asa Messer today.

Listen to this Rhode Island Public Radio interview with Principal Missry after the school was moved.

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