Principal Sheri Shirley's transformation of Oakland Heights Elementary School—a Title I school in Russellville, Arkansas—was so remarkable, it was highlighted in a book by Washington Post columnist Karin Chenoweth and in a newsletter of the Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based national think tank. Since becoming principal in 2001, Shirley has helped dramatically raise the number of students meeting or exceeding state standards, particularly among minority and low-income students. She has implemented a 90-minute literacy block, acquired a wealth of learning resources for the school, and created a system that involves teachers in data analysis, job-embedded professional development and the study of research-based best practices. Shirley instituted formal assessments at the beginning and end of each year and created an assessment proficiency wall to help students and teachers track progress and determine areas of need in literacy and math. She also organized teachers in vertical teams across grade levels to help avoid gaps in student learning. Formerly a second-grade teacher and the first elementary teacher in the district to become National Board Certified, Shirley has completed Phase II of the Arkansas Leadership Academy's Master Principal Institute. Last year, Shirley created a free dance academy at Oakland Heights, for which she helped acquire a $5,000 grant for leotards, ballet flats and tap shoes. Even the boys got involved, and the end-of-year dance recital was a proud moment for students, parents, teachers, staff and Principal Sheri Shirley.
Mrs. Shirley has worked at Oakland Heights Elementary for the past 19 years. Oakland Heights is a high poverty/high minority school and since Covid-19 students have greater needs than ever before. Mrs. Shirley and the staff at Oakland Heights are working as a PLC, identifying essential standards and creating assessments that truly measure learning. Mrs. Shirley continues to search for partnerships and opportunities for her students to participate in enriching experiences including the STEPS Dance After-School Program, Summer School Enrichment, and After-School Tutoring. Mrs. Shirley still leads her school through data analysis and sets goals with staff and students to increase achievement and see success come as a result of hard work.
2005 Arkansas Tech University, Ed. D.
1994 University of Central Arkansas, M.S.
1988 Arkansas Tech University, B.S.