Principal prepares to help students overcome challenges in new school year

At the end of the 2020-2021 school year in June, Boude Storey Middle School Principal Jacqueline Rivers was teary as she thought about why her heart remains in education after 28 years of working in Dallas ISD.

“I’ve always worked in schools that had high needs,” Rivers said. “I’ve had students who are homeless, who are in foster care, who are coming from no resources. And to see them beat the odds and overcome challenges and go on to live productive lives, there is no other feeling like it in the world.”

Rivers has one word to describe last school year: scary. Scary that her students, who face enough challenges in a regular year, were falling even further behind academically because of the pandemic. Scary that it seemed like a nearly impossible task to help the students catch up once in-person instruction resumed.

So when she heard about the opportunity for Boude Storey Middle School to adopt a School Day Redesign calendar–which extends the school year to start at the beginning of August and end in late June for all students–Rivers jumped at the opportunity. She got family and staff buy-in by explaining how far students were falling behind, and how providing more time to learn could make a lifelong difference.

“We will have time for small group instruction. We will have time to get to know the students and help them thrive,” Rivers said. “And we will have the support of the district as we pursue this innovative strategy.”

There are three different Dallas ISD 2021-2022 school year calendars, with three different start dates in August. Providing schools with the flexibility to adopt the calendar that best fits their needs is part of a larger strategy to help ensure the pandemic doesn’t have a long-lasting negative impact on student learning. The district is investing up to $100 million over the next two years in this comprehensive effort.

“With leaders like Principal Rivers taking the bold step to rethink how her school works and how to give more time to students, Dallas ISD will continue to improve outcomes and equity,” Deputy Chief of Academics Derek Little said. “We are so thankful for the 46 schools that are extending their school year to improve services and opportunities for students.”

Dallas ISD is home for Rivers, who attended Charles Rice Learning Center, John B. Hood Middle School and the School of Health Professions. She planned on becoming a doctor but, during a break before graduate school, she taught at Madison High School, igniting her passion for education and her 28-year career in the district.

Rivers knows there is plenty of work ahead for her team to prepare the current Boude Storey students for success after the additional challenges caused by the pandemic. But she also knows that, thanks to the extended school year calendar and her outstanding teachers and campus staff, they are up for the challenge.

“We want to make a difference,” Rivers said of the school year that begins in a few days “We want to see every student here go on to lead productive, fulfilling lives. And we are willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.”


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