Hillside High School’s Jessica Austin was named the 2017 Durham Public Schools Assistant Principal of the Year during a surprise announcement at the school Friday, March 24.
Described as compassionate, committed and a staunch advocate for education, Austin, as the ninth grade assistant principal and director of the Hornet Academy, a 400-student ninth grade transitional program, has been a key player at Hillside in increasing the number of students on track for promotion to the next grade.
“I am truly excited and honored,” Austin said to students who gathered Friday with Hillside Principal William Logan to celebrate Austin’s honor. “And Dr. Logan, you did a good job keeping the surprise.”
By creating a shared vision for Hornet Academy, school officials said Austin has been able to encourage teachers to buy-in, support and participate in Hornet Academy, which in turn led to the creation of tutoring and Summer Bridge programs.
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“Her ability to communicate high expectation to teachers while also holding herself accountable to those same high expectations has increased the standard by which we all must operate on a daily basis,” wrote Hillside math teacher Caroline Bonchick in a letter of recommendation. “Ms. Austin’s determination to continue helping Hillside grow has shown a level of commitment that I think makes her deserving of this award.”
Parents and students are informed at the beginning of the year of the many resources and incentives that are available, grade level expectations and goals, and how to advocate for themselves in the classroom.
Austin has also fostered a culture at Hillside where the students are recognized for academic growth.
From student of the month to honor roll and perfect attendance celebrations, students have several opportunities to be celebrated.
“Ms. Austin is one of the hardest working administrators I’ve seen. She goes above and beyond to support students and faculty for the benefit of student achievement,”Logan said. “She is a bright, energetic young woman who is at the school countless hours every day.”