Principal Shoutouts from Fulcrum: LaTasha Geverola, Anita Hernandez and Mellodie Brown

Fulcrum Education Solutions provides high-quality, consistent, customized coaching to school leaders in Chicago. In this Principal Appreciation blog post, three members from Fulcrum each picked one principal that they worked with this year to receive a shoutout.

Chandra Sledge Mathias is the Director of School Support at Fulcrum Education Solutions, and a former principal herself. She is working alongside several CPS principals this year and has chosen to shout out principal LaTasha Geverola at Oscar DePriest Elementary School. 

Q: How would you describe your principal? 

She is such a powerhouse. I would like to say that our relationship has blossomed beyond Fulcrum, because when we talk, we always talk about the work, but we also check in with each other—especially with this pandemic and everything that’s been going on. She is just a very caring person, the type where no matter what your relationship is to her professionally, she’s always gonna check in with you personally, just to make sure you’re okay.

Q: If you could describe your principal in three words, what would they be and why?

I would say, dynamite, caring, and organized. She is a stick of dynamite; like a firecracker just always like pop up, ready to go. Her energy level is incredible, which I think you need as a principal. Next, she’s caring: like I said before, no matter if you’re a teacher, parent, security officer, support staff like me, or someone from the community, she is going to check in on you, the person first, before she checks in about the work. Lastly, for organized, she has a military background. You can see the influence in her work structures and our meetings. Everything is laid out and organized, which helps her because she has so much on her plate.

Q: What is your favorite memory that you have with your principal?

My favorite memory would probably be right before COVID hit in March. She was sick and out of school for a couple of days, which is not like her. We’ve had so many conversations about taking care of yourself: you can’t pour from an empty cup. But she pushed and pushed and actually got really sick. Thankfully it wasn’t anything severe and she did not have COVID, but she pushed herself to come in.

I came into her office to see her then, and I just started laughing because she had just broken out some ginger ale and saltine crackers. I’m from the South, and we also use that as a cure for any ailment—so it was funny to see that she did the exact same thing. So we just laughed about that and she recognized that she needed to take a break and let her body rest. She learned that lesson there right before we went to remote learning.

Q: What, message, if any do you have for your principal this year? 

I would say to her that she is an amazing leader and her school is very lucky to have her. Principals can be the forgotten piece: people will check in on teachers and make sure they’re okay or checking in students. But principals often can be on their own. But I feel like she really brings an energy and level of care that is truly inspiring. And for folks who may think, educators, don’t really care about our kids and are just there to get a check or whatever, she is a leader who shuts that entire idea down. 

Q: Is there anything else that you want to tell us about your principal?

 I would just add that when you see her, you can’t deny her true, genuine love and care for her students, for her staff, for her community. She is the definition of going above and beyond.

Chris Carlson is the Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer at Fulcrum Education Solutions, and a former principal himself. He is working alongside several CPS principals this year and has chosen to shout out principal Anita Hernandez at Franz Peter Schubert Elementary.

Q: How would you describe your principal?

Anita is a phenomenal leader. One thing that stands out to me is that when she can, she really values feedback and opportunities to improve upon her already excellent leadership skills. And so our relationship is one in which I have worked with her directly and helped support her in everything from decision-making, to priority alignment, and to strategizing, working with her instructional leadership team.

Q: If you could describe your principal in three words, what would they be and why?

Reflective, invested and accountable. I already talked about how she’s reflective, but as for investment, she came to Schubert a few years ago, and it’s a school where she’s trying to highlight the great things that are happening and also rebrand the really strong efforts of her instructional team. I think that she’s been incredibly authentic in her desire to see the school thrive. As for accountability, I tend to find accountability to be a very powerful tool for leadership. Anita is direct and holds herself to a really high bar. And I think that that trickles down to her team and the way that her school works. I really value a leader that will own their own role in a situation.  

Q: What is your favorite memory that you have with your principal?

I don’t know if there’s like one specific memory. I think the thing that I find really refreshing about her is that inevitably her time with me is about the growth and development of her school. Every time that I interact with her, the three values that I mentioned just ripple through everything that she does. I think the thing that I find most rewarding in working with her is like how refreshed she personally is in her approach and commitment to getting better. 

Q: What, message, if any do you have for your principal this year? 

I think she’s doing an amazing job and staying really true to her priorities, despite the changing environment. It can be easy to overvalue operations in a time like this. And when I say overvalue, depending on what community you’re serving, maybe that exactly is what you need to be doing. But I’ll say that she has not let the logistics of this new learning environment distract her from committing to supporting her teachers and the academics and the student experience at her school. Despite all of the very real, logistical and health challenges that are happening, she still feels an incredible responsibility for Schubert students to learn. And that’s kind of a piece that isn’t discussed as much as I wish it was amidst the decisions. 

 Q: Is there anything else that you want to tell us about your principal?

I know that she’s very grateful for her support team at the school, such as her assistant principal. I also know that Anita is very humble and she’s very grateful for the support team including me. I don’t think that I do a ton, but she does a good job of having trust with people and letting them do some of the lifting—which helps her affect some of the bigger picture changes I mentioned. She’ll be embarrassed by any sort of like praise in this way, but also, she would be the first to say that she gets a lot of support and really is grateful for it.

Sarah Hunko is the Senior Director of School Support at Fulcrum Education Solutions, and a former principal herself. She is working alongside several CPS principals this year and has chosen to shout out principal Mellodie Brown at Ludwig Van Beethoven Elementary school.

Q: How would you describe your principal?

Mellodie Brown is an amazing woman and just a force to be reckoned with. She’s an extremely experienced principal, and before coming to Beethoven had been a principal with AUSL and had done some turnaround work.  

She is an incredible organizational leader and instructional leader. I think she has so much skill in seeing what’s going on in a classroom, being able to quickly diagnose environments and develop teacher support plans. I’ve seen her model instruction one-on-one, I’ve seen her instruct individuals and groups of teachers in coaching meetings, and I’ve seen her delegate and develop other leaders on her team to do the same kind of work.

Q: If you could describe your principal in three words, what would they be and why?

Tenacious, warm and focused. She’s tenacious because she will stop at nothing and continue to just dig into the work. When she started at Beethoven, it was in a really tough place with lots of turnover of leaders and generational disinvestment in the community and the school. She’s incredibly tenacious in how she fights for what students deserve. She then has a warmth that I think really compliments that tenacious piece. I’ve kind of always felt a connection with her. And I think that comes from her natural relationship building abilities. Lastly, she’s focused: She will clearly focus on what needs to be done and just keep in touch through it all.

Q: What is your favorite memory with your principal?

Mellodie’s daughter is in college, and one time she came to the school to surprise her. I love this memory because it was really cool to see the two of them together, but then after they shared a laugh, Mellodie didn’t skip a beat. She was like: “You need to go home, and I have work to do in classrooms.” It’s such a Mellodie thing to give your daughter a hug, be all excited, jumping up and down, and then say, “Alright, you got some work and so do I will see you at home.” It was real sweet.

Q: What message, if any, do you have for your principal this year? 

I want to say that I’m continually inspired by her fearlessness and her focus. I also want to say that the school community and everyone she’s had a chance to work with this year are really lucky to have her in their corner. You’re a fighter and we love you and appreciate you. And we’re all better for having you in our lives.

Q: Is there anything else that you want to tell us about your principal? 

I’m really just lucky to know her. I’ve learned a lot from her and hopefully I’ve also provided a kind ear for her and a sounding board. Principals don’t always get a lot of opportunities like that, so I think that’s a cool thing about our work. Mellodie has really just soaked it up all up to focus on instruction, and we’re seeing her start to transform her school as a result.

To learn more about #PrincipalPrideChi and Principal Appreciation Month, click here