Every October the nation honors the hard work and dedication of school principals during Principals Month. Atlanta Public Schools salutes all principals in APS who lead our schools with excellence and dedication. In this article, we highlight Dr. Dione Simon Taylor, 2018 APS Principal of the Year.
As far back as she can remember, Dr. Dione Simon Taylor knew she wanted to work in education. The Towns Elementary School principal, who now carries the distinction of being the 2018 Atlanta Public Schools Principal of the Year, said being a principal is the “best thing ever.” Her bubbly personality and infectious smile will brighten up any room and exudes her passion for education. Prior to coming to Towns, Taylor occupied many roles in education: math teacher, avid coordinator, assistant principal, and principal at Coretta Scott King Middle School.
When it comes to being a principal, Taylor said it can sometimes feel like you are juggling many balls. Taylor, whose Gallup Strengths are: Strategic, Achiever, Futuristic, Learner and Relator, credits her ability to tap into her strengths as one secret to her success. When coming to Towns three years ago, she was confident she could improve performance at the school. “I’m a learner and I had great support,” Taylor said. After seven years as a principal, she shared some of her key strategies for leading.
Be All-In. Taylor said being a principal is not a job for the faint of heart, and it is impossible to be successful without giving it all you’ve got.
“My former principal Dr. Tyronne Smith at Mays told me, ‘No matter what you think the principal’s job is, you don’t really know until you are the principal.’ I’ve learned it’s about being all-in. You can’t do this job halfway and expect to be successful. You also have to build a team of followers who feel the same way. You’ve got to be all-in and know what’s happening in your building,” said Taylor.
Hire Well and Retain Like-Minded People. Taylor makes it a goal to hire people who work hard, enjoy coming to work, and share a love for a people. Taylor said she has learned that hiring well and retaining talent is a key to achieving the mission.
“You have to give people the opportunity to do their job. When I first came to Towns, I wanted to love on people, make them feel supported and cared for,” she said. “At the end of the day, we go home and feel good about the work we do.”
Become an Instructional Leader. Taylor credits her new supervisor, APS Associate Superintendent Dr. Emily Massey, as the catalyst who helped her to implement practices to be a more effective instructional leader.
“Dr. Massey changed the game for me. She has been so supportive and she knows what it takes to move the needle,” said Taylor. “Student outcomes are critically important. Becoming an instructional leader requires me to be in classrooms, keep a focus on results, and have a laser-like focus on what needs to happen.”
Use Every Available Resource to Help Students. With a belief that all children can do this work, Taylor believes we have to get focused on making learning happen.
“We educate kids and parents on what is critically important. We have to give kids choices in life. We take care of all the needs of families so our kids are ready to learn,” said Taylor.
The team at Tiger Town was elated when Taylor was surprised as Principal of the Year. When some were asked for words to describe their leader, the list was illustrious: passionate, thoughtful, teacher, thorough, focused, caring, positive, polished, smart, friendly, dedicated, leader, understanding, considerate, selfless… We agree to this list and more!
Taylor, along with outstanding teachers and district leaders, will be recognized during the APyeS awards on Wednesday, Oct. 25, at the Woodruff Arts Center. Congratulations, Dr. Dione Simon Taylor, 2018 Atlanta Public Schools Principal of the Year.