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Administering success through creative discipline earns Debreon Davis a $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Expecting a lot from students, and getting it, is key to excellence for Edmond, Oklahoma Principal

December 07, 2017

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — Playing, and winning, the expectations game is working for Debreon Davis, the new principal at Edmond North High School in Edmond, Oklahoma. Whether it's enlisting older students to mentor freshmen, closely collaborating with her faculty and community to solve problems or heating up the STEM program by including the arts to promote a STEAM curriculum, Davis instills a culture of accountability wherever she goes.

But we know of one recent rowdy student gathering Principal Davis had no problem with: The school assembly this morning where she received the surprise of a $25,000 Milken Educator Award from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister and Lowell Milken, chairman and co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation. Davis is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Oklahoma this year, and is one of 44 honorees for 2017-18.

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching" has been opening minds and shaping futures for 30 years. Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement. The initiative not only aims to reward great teachers, but to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America's next generation of leaders. Milken Educators believe, "The future belongs to the educated."

Davis places high expectations on her students and faculty, and the results are first rate. She recently stepped up from a successful assistant principal stint at Edmond Memorial High where students of all learning abilities improved their academic performance under her guidance. Community outreach, faculty collaboration and technology integration are all in her educational toolkit, which is helping students build themselves up for the challenges of higher education and life in the larger adult world.

"Great educators like Debreon Davis know that a rigorous education awakens the mind, but that in order to experience this great awakening, the mind needs a safe, encouraging and challenging space to thrive," said Lowell Milken. "With her emphasis on personal discipline and growth, Debreon impresses upon students the importance of meeting challenges head on and learning from whatever comes your way."

"Effective principals create and reinforce the culture of a school to ensure teachers and students can excel in a supportive, trusting environment," said Hofmeister. "By any calculation, Debreon Davis is an exceptionally effective leader who is wholeheartedly dedicated to service. Her commitment to high expectations and belief that every child can achieve have earned respect from students and their families, her colleagues and the Edmond community." 

About Milken Educator Debreon Davis
Davis sets the stage for future learning by expecting a lot from students—and they don't want to disappoint her. Recognizing her track record of achievement, she was recently appointed principal at Edmond North High School in Edmond, Oklahoma, to begin the 2017-18 school year. As the former Assistant Principal of the Freshman Academy at Edmond Memorial High School, Davis crafted a clear vision and goal for students, parents and teachers: an inclusive and effective environment based on reinforcement, collaboration and guidance to help incoming freshman transition into high school. Additionally, she visited 8th grade teachers at the feeder schools to identify struggling students in math and reading, and developed appropriate academic strategies for their success once they enter high school. Student-centered practices are hallmarks of Davis' leadership, and central to her plans for Edmond North High School.

From detailed data analysis of student acumen to teacher collaboration, and from technology and STEAM integration to remediation initiatives, students of all learning abilities improved their academic performance and attitude under her leadership. She enhanced the "Bulldog Mentors" program, pairing freshman with upperclassmen who share their secrets to success, including short- and long-term academic planning. With positive support, Davis turned discipline issues into learning experiences rather than punitive consequences. Students trust her best intentions—absenteeism, tardiness and behavior referrals all trended downward as a result of increased student engagement, parent communications and teacher interactions.

Teachers saw a supportive partner in Davis who changed the dynamics of the Freshman Academy. She championed their personal and professional growth by encouraging development opportunities at school and throughout the Edmond Public Schools system. Davis chairs the professional development committee and helps set the tone district-wide for what educators will do to meet the curriculum goals of Edmond Public Schools.

Davis is a leader on campus and off as a dedicated member of her community. Working with pre-teens and early teens, she mentors young adults through the local Young Life group and during summer camps in other states. Davis also volunteers as a board member of the Oklahoma City Dream Center, a non-profit offering people isolated by poverty access to services that meet basic needs and get them back on their feet as well as providing preventive programs for at-risk youth.

Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from University of Central Oklahoma in 2008, and her Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership from Southern Nazarene University in 2011.

More information about Davis, plus links to photos and a video from today's assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at

Milken Educators are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. In addition to the $25,000 prize and public recognition, Davis's honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,700 top teachers, principals and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2017-18 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in Washington, D.C., March 20-23, 2018. Educators will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and hear from state and federal officials about maximizing their leadership roles to advance educator effectiveness.

More than $138 million in funding, including $68 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional learning opportunities throughout recipients' careers. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.

The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is completely unique: Educators cannot apply for this recognition and do not even know they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then are reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final approval by the Milken Family Foundation.

Past recipients have used their Awards to fund their children's education or their own continuing education. Others have financed dream field trips, established scholarships and even funded the adoption of children.

To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Milken Educator Awards tour is on social media at,,, and

For more information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.

About the Milken Educator Awards
The very first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation 30 years ago in 1987. The Awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish.

Jana Rausch
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