Principal, South End Middle School, age 34
Tim Allen says he has a very basic approach to education and the students he serves.
“I feel that all students need to be valued,” said the man given the reins at Springfield’s new South End Middle School, which opened its doors in 2011. “And all students can achieve if they’re given the right environment in school, and if they’re given the tools they need to succeed.”
And he takes that same basic approach with the teachers in the classrooms.
“I believe in creating a family environment where people can work collaboratively,” Allen explained. “I believe in sharing leadership as much as possible, and I believe that teachers need to be supported, since what they’re doing is the most important thing in the building.”
To say that this philosophy is generating results would be a huge understatement. Indeed, the 300 students at the school — more than a third of whom are English Language Learners, or ELL — showed more improvement on the English portion of the MCAS tests in the school’s first year than any of the other six neighborhood middle schools in Springfield.
Meanwhile, 95% of the teachers who generated those results stayed at their positions for the 2012-13 school year, bucking a trend for extremely high turnover rates within urban schools.
Allen’s immediate goal is to continually improve on those results, a reflection of his habit of setting the bar high after he made that intriguing and often-difficult career decision to move from the classroom to the administrative wing in 2007.
“I like the challenge of leadership — I like leading adults,” he said in explaining that choice. “And I just felt that I could give a lot back by trying to help an entire school improve, as opposed to just one classroom; I really like that challenge.”
And while taking it on, he’s finding other ways to give back, especially through his work with Big Brothers Big Sisters. He’s been mentoring the same Springfield youth for eight years now, and says the relationship has been mutually beneficial.
“It’s been a real bright spot in my life,” he said. “He’s a very bright young man, and he’s come a long way, and I think the relationship has influenced both lives in a very positive way.”
— George O’Brien