ALNATA DIONE BRADFORD
ALNATA DIONE BRADFORD
Parkway Elementary School, Principal
2021 Louisiana State Principal of the Year
20/20: Seeing Through the Eye of a Storm
“The 2021 Louisiana State Principal of the Year is…Ms. Alnata Dione Bradford—huge congratulations!” announced Ms. Jenny Carey, 2020 LA State Principal of the Year. This announcement came three months ago and her words from the 14th Annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Excellence Awards Virtual Gala still leave me in awe and graciously humbled by being named the recipient of such a grand honor. With this honor comes the responsibility of being an advocate for equity, innovation, and educator empowerment. It has also provided me with the opportunity to network with other exceptional and emerging school leaders throughout Louisiana. Ms. Carey’s announcement has been my silver lining during this unique and stormy year.
As I began reflecting back on that evening, I thought about how the emotions I felt at my watch party were a summation of all the difficult days that preceded the nomination. I also thought about the glaring contrast that existed behind the camera. Not all who viewed the wonderful “Publishers Clearing House” rendition of surprising the award recipients were made privy to the ruins that remained right outside the windows of my parents’ home and throughout most of Southwest Louisiana (SWLA). On August 27, 2020, Hurricane Laura made landfall in SWLA as the most powerful Category 4 storm to hit the United States as measured by maximum sustained winds since 1856. The video only depicts the sheer joy and gratitude for being nominated. It did not capture the twisted power lines and uprooted pine trees, oak trees, and pecan trees that stretched over highways, parks, schools, and homes. The audio feed did not pick up the humming of generators or the buzzing of chainsaws. There was not a snapshot of the sea of blue tarps on homes or the missing rooftops of local businesses that spanned for miles and miles. From the expressions and excitement shared in that living room on the night of the announcement, no one would have guessed that the power in my neighborhood had only been restored 48 hours earlier, and that hundreds of thousands of people in our surrounding areas were still without power or water for the next weeks to come. Hurricane Laura not only shifted our lives at home in SWLA, but it hit our lives at school as well. Some districts had to delay school openings for another two weeks, while others had to close school for three to four weeks for repairs and power restoration.
The human spirit exhibited during these tough months, brought my thoughts to 2 Corinthians 4: 8-9 which says, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” Although the devastation following Hurricane Laura was extensive, the damages did not destroy the people of SWLA. Hot meals, shelter, water, clothing, generators, transportation, hygiene products, A/C units, and gasoline were distributed to those in need from various ministries and organizations on a daily basis. Teams of neighbors worked together to mend fences and remove debris or fallen trees. Linemen diligently worked to repair electrical grids and rebuild entire systems. And our educators did what excellent educators do best. They put kids first. Teachers and support staff members worked together to prepare breakfasts and lunches for our students, send work packets home, and conduct check-in on Google Meet. Book drives and parent support fairs were created in communities where school libraries and classrooms were lost in the storm. The outpour of support within our communities has been truly remarkable. SWLA will continue to come through these trials stronger as we continue to work together and remain Louisiana Strong.
These selfless acts during the storm reminded me of why I am an educator. As a school leader, I am in the people business. Rev. Clyde Lewis, pastor of the Bethel Metropolitan Fellowship Church in Lake Charles, Louisiana, often reminds his congregants that, “People must be our passion, our purpose, and our priority.” The educators and students at Parkway Elementary share in my vision that schools should be a place where everybody grows, everybody learns, everyone is loved, and everyone is held accountable. This is more than a statement to us. We work towards improvement. We monitor standard alignment and rigor before investing in professional developments and providing instruction to our students. We celebrate each other and greet each other with genuine kindness and respect. We ensure the safety and wellness of all who enter our campus. We communicate with clarity and transparency our expectations for excellence. We make it a point to people first. Before Jesus performed any miracle the scripture records that He was first moved with compassion. The foundation of any service rendered or decision made is passion. All of our efforts are in the hope that the people we serve will experience our passion, know our purpose, and appreciate the priority of our work. This passion does not come with conditions or expiration dates. Just like the SWLA communities affected by the storm, we too must look for the need. We too have to find ways to be a blessing. And we too have to make the miracle happen by simply being the miracle.
The saying goes that hindsight is 20/20. As this year draws to a close, my final thoughts are a series of self-reflective questions I use to gauge my progress and calculate my next steps. How much have I grown? Where do I need to grow? What have I learned? What am I still unsure about? How well have I loved? What now? These self-reflection questions allow me to check and reset my lens as a leader to get a better view of myself and the world around me. Visual acuity measures how clearly one can see from a distance. Looking back through the months of the year 2020, I have had a mix of storms and silver linings. However, I encourage each of you to remain hopeful. Remain helpful. Storms are inevitable, but I can attest to the beauty and the calm that are found in the eye of a storm.
Principal Bradford wins 2021 Louisiana State Principal of the Year!