At Center City Public Charter Schools’ Brightwood Campus, serving pre-K through eighth grade in Washington, D.C., each student is part of a “Brightwood Family.” Inspired by a School Retool summer program, Principal Rachel Tommelleo designed the school family “hack” to make sure every student had access to relationships with staff and peers to support academic, social and emotional growth. Each staff member now has a “family” of one student per grade level. The inter-grade groups meet every 4 to 6 weeks for get-to-know-you activities and service projects, giving the older students leadership opportunities to mentor younger students. Tommelleo makes a priority of creating a strong, positive school culture: She knows every student’s name, interacts with the children daily, and has initiated a No Bully Project and Kindness Challenge. The principal is known as a servant leader who does whatever is necessary to remove obstacles so students and staff can thrive.
Every year Tommelleo and her staff pick a few “big rocks” to focus on. When writing was the skill in the spotlight, Tommelleo created a weekly writing contest judged by a rotating team of teachers; students read their work and sang original songs, all captured on video. Spurred by a fellowship with the Relay Graduate School of Educator’s National Principals Academy, Tommelleo implemented data-driven cycles with her teachers, every few weeks digging into learning standards, looking at student work and determining what to reteach. She has led professional development on data-driven instruction for up to 300 district staff. Families meet with Tommelleo and staff members to look at data together and go home with specific activities to help their children improve in the areas where they need extra help. A former elementary and middle school teacher and instructional coach, the principal is known for her ability to analyze and dissect classroom instruction and make coaching recommendations for improvement. Brightwood earned the National Title I Distinguished School Award for closing gaps for subgroups and students with disabilities at the end of Tommelleo’s first year as principal. The school has received Tier I commendation from the Public Charter School Board for student achievement, and graduates attend some of the District’s most competitive high schools.
Brightwood’s staff sees Tommelleo as a helpful resource, trusted colleague and thought partner. She believes in distributed leadership and has empowered teachers to take on additional responsibilities by leading cultural nights, performances, athletics and enrichment programs. Tommelleo has built the school’s thriving arts program, hosts a back-to-school barbecue, and started a uniform donation drive. She pushes teachers to attain their goals: When a new pre-K teacher said he wanted to become fluent in Spanish, Tommelleo encouraged him to spend six months in Spain, confident he would return with skills to help both students and the school succeed.
Tommelleo earned a bachelor’s in mass media communications in 2004 from New York University and a master’s in elementary education in 2006 from Mercy College.
Education Week Teacher | Jan 09 , 2019 | Bethesda, MD
The DC Line | Nov 20 , 2018 | Washington, D.C.