Dominican Republic's Education Leaders Explore Innovative DCSD Schools

Delegates from the Dominican Republic visited two innovative DeKalb County Schools, Woodward Elementary School and Doraville United Elementary School, to observe their literacy and instructional leadership practices. The visits took place on April 30 and May 1 and were organized by the Ministry of Education of the Dominican Republic in partnership with Mercer University. Mercer collaborated with DCSD to select Doraville United and Woodward Elementary Schools, giving the delegates a first-hand view of each school’s instructional leadership practices.

“When the delegates came to Mercer, we wanted them to see instructional leadership and the impact that it can have on teachers as well as increasing student achievement,” said Dr. N. Jean Walker of Mercer University.

“So, finding a school that we felt confident would be able to demonstrate that had me working with [Doraville United Assistant Principal] Kimberly Clark as one of my educational leadership students, we made that connection. We asked if we could visit the school, and they welcomed us.”

Prior to their visit, the delegates from the Dominican Republic had a Zoom meeting with the school leaders of Doraville United and Woodward to gain insight into their operations. Dr. Walker mentioned that their trip gave them a more personalized understanding of what was discussed during the virtual meetings.

“It’s one thing to sit and listen and learn, but it’s even more impactful when you have an opportunity to see it, hear it, and touch the children. See them learning, see the instructional strategies put into action and the impact that it has,” said Dr. Walker. “To see the children is the result of how the district plans and collaborates with their local school leaders, how those local school leaders work with teachers, and then the impact that it has on children. It has just been a wonderful learning experience.”

Dr. Daniel Garvey is originally from Cleveland, Ohio, and has taught in the Dominican Republic for several years. He explained that their visit primarily focused on learning about school instructional leadership practices. They are interested in observing schools’ processes and protocols to monitor instruction, analyze student assessment data, and create personalized professional development tools. These tools are aimed at supporting teachers to improve their practice.

“The week has been fantastic. We received an extremely warm welcome from Woodward Elementary and Doraville United,” said Dr. Garvey. “One of the things that we’re trying to replicate is the focus on the principal as an instructional leader, as opposed to a building manager, and equipping them with tools to support their teachers as instructional leaders better.”

Doraville United Principal Michelle Perez said that the collaboration between Mercer University and the delegates from the Dominican Republic with DCSD is an excellent development.

“Especially a school district with which we can share and gain ideas from them,” said Principal Perez. It’s a passion of mine to support communities that need it, and it’s been a blessing to have this opportunity to work with them.”

“We hope to learn whatever we can to support our ELA learners,” Principal Perez added. “We do have learners coming from the Dominican Republic, so we must understand what setting they are coming from so that we can provide the best setting here and help the transition run smoothly.”

Dr. Garvey and his colleagues expressed their desire to return to DeKalb County at some point in the future.

“We hope to have some people from DeKalb County come down at some point to visit us in the Dominican Republic, visit our schools, and continue this exchange.”

Dominican Republic's Education Leaders Explore Innovative DCSD Schools

Dominican Republic's Education Leaders Explore Innovative DCSD Schools