Six years ago, Christine Borelli-Connor became principal of John H. Webster Elementary, located at 3400 Frankford Ave. A Philadelphia native, Borelli-Connor entered a school community, where she said teachers were working hard but were not informed about the most effective ways to educate their students.
“Certain things were not established,” Borelli-Connor said. “If you have students who are on grade level, why are they doing the exact same work as the students who are below grade level?”
The new principal started an initiative. Her team began looking at each of Webster’s 940 students and assessed each student’s personal academic level and individual needs. This process created a student body that today includes classes separated for special education, emotional support and five honors classes.
“Here we need to accelerate our students because when they leave me they need to get into the magnet middle schools,” Borelli-Connor said.
Borelli-Connor’s no-excuse attitude and determination were recently observed by Webster staff, students and parents. Last night, the principal’s efforts were rewarded at the Lindback Award for Distinguished Principal Leadership ceremony. Along with seven other city principals, Borelli-Connor was honored for her leadership and contributions to the Webster community.
The School District of Philadelphia website states the winner must demonstrate high expectations and develop people within their schools and communities. Webster students, parents and staff all were required to write letters to the district explaining why they felt Borelli-Connor should be an award recipient.
Webster staff member and aide Debbie Volpe said she believed Borelli-Connor was deserving of the award.
“I think she relates to the parents very well and to her staff. She’s the best, she’s awesome,” Volpe said.
Borelli-Connor said she was very appreciative of the award, and nomination, by her school.
“It was the proudest moment of my professional career,” Borelli-Connor said.
As part of the honor, Webster School was awarded $15,000 in grant money. Money that Borelli-Connor said will be used for an audio system that students will use for performances and concerts.
High expectations will continue to exist at Webster school, Borelli-Connor said. The principal credits the hard work of teachers and students for Webster’s achievements.
“We don’t use the single-parent household, we don’t use poverty, we don’t use those excuses,” Borelli-Connor said. “We put things in place here to make sure that the students have the resources that they need.”
For more information on the Lindback Award for Distinguished Principal Leadership visit the School District of Philadelphia website.