Dr. Michaela Keegan, principal of the Juanita Sanchez Educational Complex (JSEC), was recently named First-Year Principal of the Year by the Rhode Island Association of School Principals (RIASP). On May 20, her family and Providence Schools colleagues were on-hand as she was recognized at the association’s annual banquet.
RIASP seeks nominations each year for leaders in three categories – elementary, middle and high school principals; assistant principals; and first-year principals. After careful review of the nominations, a selection committee makes recommendations, then sends a visiting team to the front-runners’ schools.
Joseph Crowley, executive director of RIASP, says that the positive student culture evolving in Keegan’s school community was palpable. “Students clearly knew what was expected of them,” he says. “They knew what to do, where to be, how to act. That’s not an easy feat in a big high school, and it’s evidence that the school leadership and staff are working hard together.
Keegan became principal of JSEC mid-way through the 2012-13 year (the award recognizes her first full year of service in 2013-14), and jumped right into the district’s Graduate Providence campaign designed to roll-out new personal graduation plans, advising and other tools to ready students for more stringent graduation standards. Keegan and her team went full-throttle, doing weekend neighborhood walk-throughs and door-to-door visits to get the word out that spring.
Under her leadership, the school has begun to expand its parent engagement and particularly to cultivate parent leadership. Teacher Piedade Lemos, who is spearheading the effort, has credited Keegan’s openness and accessibility as a key factor in the fledgling parent group’s success.
Allowing her staff to shine where their strengths and interests are has been a tenet of Keegan’s leadership.
“I try to focus on empowering and building the capacity of others to lead various aspects of our work in school improvement,” says Keegan, “from parent engagement to data-driven instruction. I can’t do this work alone, and we’ve really built a sense of ownership here among staff and students. This award may have my name on it, but the credit truly should be shared among the whole school community.”
“Michaela Keegan has been one of our stand-out young principals over the last couple of years,” said Providence Schools Superintendent Dr. Susan F. Lusi. “She was chosen to lead the JSEC building because of her drive and focus. She’s brought increased teamwork and a sense of stability to a school that had been struggling a bit in those areas. And the results speak for themselves. We are so proud of her for having received this award.”
Keegan has been in Providence Public Schools for 10 years, starting as a special education teacher at Hope High School. She was an aspiring principal in the Principal Residence Network, then became assistant principal at Mt. Pleasant High School in 2012. She had also served as a summer school principal.
Keegan holds a B.A. in psychology and political science from the University of Rhode Island and an M.A.T. in history and special education certification from Rhode Island College. She completed her Ed.D. in educational leadership from Johnson & Wales University just last month.