Prosser principal picked as top in region

PROSSER -- The head of Prosser's middle school has been named the Three River region's principal of the year by the Association of Washington School Principals.

The Three River region covers Prosser, Paterson, the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla.

Deanna Flores, principal at Housel Middle School, now is in the running to be named the state's middle school principal of the year.

That award will be announced in January.

Flores was nominated by Housel's assistant principal, Michael Roberts.

In the nomination, Roberts said Housel's test scores have improved even as the school caters to a higher percentage of low-income and English-learning students than ever before.

The nomination also included a number of glowing reviews that Housel teachers gave their boss.

The decorated principal came from within the school's ranks. Flores started teaching at Housel 20 years ago, she said. She became the assistant principal in 2001 and took on the top position in the building four years ago.

The biggest change she brought about when she took over was to shake up the master schedule, she said. Part of that was to give teachers a daily time slot to coordinate their efforts in improving students' performances.

The concept -- called Professional Learning Communities -- is in widespread use. But few places dedicate as much time to it, Flores said. Most allow teachers one meeting per week.

Flores thinks the daily cooperation of teachers contributes greatly to the school's good test scores.

"When I was teaching 15 years ago, if I had a kid who was struggling I had to find out his schedule and then find out who his teachers were," she said.

Today, her school's students and teachers are organized in teams. The roughly 700 students are split into four teams.

Each student in a given team is instructed by the same small group of teachers. And those teachers meet daily to discuss who needs help in what areas.

It's a variation on a national theme and is unique to Housel.

"I haven't seen a schedule that looks like mine," Flores said about the daily get-togethers.

Flores was at a parent meeting late last week when news of the award arrived. She had no idea it was coming and at first felt slightly embarrassed.

"I'm not the best to take praise," she said. "But it really made me feel good."