When the tall, peppy principal of Dalton Gardens Elementary School takes her daily exercise - walking the perimeter of the school grounds - she isn’t alone for long.
“Pretty soon, there will be one or two students, and then there is a whole flock with her,” said parent Gena Loper. “I see more kids who walk up and hug her. They just love her to pieces.”
The students aren’t the only ones who admire and follow Pam Pratt’s lead.
Pratt’s colleagues have given her the National Distinguished Principal Award for Idaho, sponsored by the Idaho Association of School Administrators.
In October, she and 49 other elementary school principals will be honored in Washington, D.C., for their leadership and innovation.
Hazel Bauman, elementary curriculum director for the Coeur d’Alene schools, nominated Pratt for the award.
“She has done work in several areas that we could replicate throughout the district,” Bauman said. “She’s got the get-up-and-go. She doesn’t wait for things to be handed to her.”
Pratt became Dalton Gardens principal four years ago, after working as vice principal at Lakes Middle School.
One project Pratt and her staff initiated two years ago was implemented districtwide this year.
The program gives teachers clearly defined academic standards and student tests in the fall and spring in the areas of math, reading, writing and spelling. Teachers and Pratt then have a way of evaluating student progress and teaching effectiveness.
“Our main purpose is to improve student achievement,” Pratt said Wednesday. “We’re not used to collecting data. Before all we had was the ITBS (national assessment) scores.”
Pratt partially credits her school’s improved scores, which are among the best in the district, to the pre- and post-test program.
Other schools are talking about adopting Dalton’s tutoring program. Students who risk falling behind in reading are matched up with high school or middle school student volunteers who tutor them after school.But she’s no push-over with the students, parents say.
Parents say Pratt also is leading the way when it comes to teaching morals in school.
Under her Unlock Your Potential incentive program, Pratt visits classrooms to teach eight key values, such as honesty and responsibility. Teachers reinforce them, and students are rewarded for practicing them.
Pratt says the program has dramatically cut down on discipline problems.
Loper also credits Pratt for being clear and precise in her expectations of children. Loper’s own son has visited the principal’s office for discipline, and came away feeling responsible, Loper said.
“The kids know that she means it, but she means it in a gentle way,” Loper said. “She’s such a role model.”
Though Dalton Gardens Elementary used to trail other schools in technology, an ambitious technology plan has it rapidly catching up.
The school recently raised $25,000 for computer and video technology. Pratt was closely involved in both the planning and fund raising.
Her ties to the community helped. Among her many activities and memberships, Pratt is a Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce Commodore, Project Leadership participant and liaison to the Kootenai County Human Rights Task Force.
Pratt was humble about her award Wednesday.
“I felt quite honored, but you feel like it could go to any of your colleagues,” she said. “Coeur d’Alene is very lucky because we have an administration and a school board that gives us direction, but they also allow us the freedom to try new ideas.”