Robert Long Robert Long, Thompson Elementary School principal[/caption]

In his second year as principal at Thompson Elementary School in Spring ISD, Robert Long is bringing his experience in administration to a pilot program at the school aimed at producing successful teachers in a low-income school environment.

Long began his career in education teaching third through fifth grade in Bryan and College Station ISDs. Having previously served as an assistant principal at the elementary and secondary school level at Aldine ISD and an associate principal at Cy-Fair ISD, Long said he welcomed the opportunity to be involved with younger students again.

Thompson serves students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.

Long said the experiences and relationships students have in elementary school can form the basis for their success in secondary school. However, the opportunity to reach students is often lost if those connections are not formed early in life, he said.

“The community really wants stronger schools,” Long said. “When [Superintendent Rodney Watson] hired me as a principal, I was invigorated to be a part of the change in the district.”

SISD Communications Director Karen Garrison said the school was chosen for the program because of Long’s previous leadership experience and the school’s diverse population.

Teacher retention has been an issue in the district, particularly at urban schools like Thompson, where Long said many instructors leave after one or two years of teaching.

The goal of the Texas A&M University’s Urban Student Teachers’ Advanced Residency program is to train teachers who will remain in the district, mentor and train other teachers and develop relationships with the parents and community, Long said.

“Thompson is becoming the teacher-development center for the district,” Long said.

Through U-STAR, five senior students studying education will work alongside classroom teachers four days out of each week this year at the school to acquire experience working in a district with students from low-income households and diverse cultural backgrounds.

Most of the school’s 713 students are from families near the poverty line and about 60 percent of the student population receives reduced-cost lunch, Long said. Close to a third of the student population has limited English proficiency.

“They need tools to be successful,” Long said of his students. “We’re hoping to bridge the gap.”