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Assistant Principal at Two Bunch Palms Elementary Denise Fenton led the development of the school’s Positive Behavior Intervention and Support system that set schoolwide expectations for behavior.
Fenton fosters connections between students, staff members and families
October 3, 2022
Name: Denise Fenton Award: Elementary Co-Administrator of the Year Title: Asst. Principal, Two Bunch Palms Elementary School, Palm Springs USD ACSA highlights: Member since 2012
Since she initially joined Two Bunch Palms Elementary School in 2012, Denise Fenton has put in the work to improve the relationships between school staff, students and parents. Key to her philosophy is to meet families “where they are” and to foster their trust in teachers and administrators; to that end, she makes sure to respond to parents promptly and involve them in student support.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Fenton initiated electronic communication to keep families connected, which included individual appointments to assist them with technology issues and a weekly “Friday Awards” video to recognize students.
She led the development of the school’s Positive Behavior Intervention and Support system that set schoolwide expectations for behavior and tiered interventions. Fenton created a “school store” where students can use their PBIS points to purchase items or activities — the store continued as a virtual storefront during the pandemic.
Two Bunch Palms Principal Joseph Scudder said that when Fenton takes on a new program or project, she makes sure to become an expert on the subject first before helping others.
“When coming up against obstacles, Denise looks at all the facts, listens to concerns, reexamines the purpose of the program or project and its impact on student learning, and then takes steps forward,” Scudder said. “She has a deep commitment to a high code of ethics with her colleagues, students and her families.”
What’s your favorite book or quote on leadership? There are so many great quotes on leadership that I can relate to, but I feel a quote from Mother Teresa: “Lead, love, and serve always and anyway,” represents me as a person and a leader.
What’s your best strategy for work/life balance? It’s taken me a long time to accept that there is no “perfect” work/life balance. I have learned to prioritize my self-care by exercising immediately after I get home. It helps me to get rid of the stress and anxiety of the day and help me to refocus. I also make sure to make time for family and friends by calendaring time.
What are some life hacks that you would recommend for a new administrator? 1. Make a daily “to do” list and prioritize tasks.
2. Make time just before leaving for the evening to make sure you’ve communicated with any families that you might need to call or email. I always tell parents that I will call them back the same day; I don’t always have time for non-urgent calls during the school day, but I will call them back before I leave school for the day. 3. If you have to take work home, be sure to not let it interfere with your self-care and family time.
What made you want to become a school administrator? I didn’t plan on becoming a school administrator. A friend talked me into completing the few additional courses required to obtain our administrative services credential to move over on the pay scale after we completed our master’s degree in education with a teaching emphasis. After being an academic coach and working with teachers, I discovered that I enjoyed working with teachers and supporting them and decided to pursue administration. I am thankful that I let her convince me to pursue my admin credential.
What is your proudest accomplishment? I am most proud of the Multi-tiered Systems of Support that we have implemented at Two Bunch Palms. We have worked to promote a positive culture for students and staff. Staff build rapport with students and accept students where they are at while moving them forward academically and socially. Some highlights are students in Tier 1 earn points to make purchases from our virtual school store and all classrooms have a designated time for small group support. We are currently servicing 122 students in our Tier 2 Reading Intervention daily. Our suspension rate has dropped 88 percent from 2017-18 to 2021-22. It’s a work in progress, but I’m proud of our progress and look forward to seeing our students continue to grow.
How has ACSA supported you in your career/current position? ACSA has supported me in my career through professional development. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Summer Leadership Conference a few years ago, which was a great experience to network, learn and grow. I’ve also had the opportunity to attend some virtual professional development. EdCal and the Leadership publications give me information and ideas that help me to reflect and give me new ideas and strategies to look in to.
What new strategies are you using to ensure student success in the post-“return to school” period? This year, we have had to focus on social-emotional learning. We have a daily schoolwide social-emotional block for the first 20 minutes of the day. During this time, each classroom does mindfulness. This has helped students learn to cope with the stress and anxiety that is much more prevalent in the post-“return to school” period. The remainder of the time is spent on social-emotional lessons.
2022 Elementary Co-administrator of the Year Denise Fenton.
2022 Elementary Co-administrator of the Year Denise Fenton.
2022 Elementary Co-administrator of the Year Denise Fenton.