Beginning his 18th year in education, Geovanny Ponce humbly believes: “I am still on the path to becoming the school leader my school needs.” This self-assessment is rooted in Geovanny’s awareness that excellent school leaders “don’t know everything and take it upon themselves to bridge those gaps.” A willingness to honestly assess, evaluate and make improvements where needed is critical for student and school growth. Leaders like Geovanny hold themselves to account for their students’ success and are therefore able to instill the pillars of an accountable education – data collection, regular assessment, meaningful evaluation, and courage to improve– that breed achievement.
Geovanny’s vision for success centers on his own mantra: “school culture will impact school achievement.” Building his leadership skills for 17 years around this idea, Geovanny has been able to lead Hartman Middle School in just over a year into an era of rigor and accountability that “maintains a culture of achievement.” Developing his leadership and human capital skills through AREL-affiliated Rice University Educational Entrepreneurship Program (REEP), Geovanny was equipped to build his school’s community around an implementation of rigorous and measureable systems that progressed Hartman from a subpar district rating, to being ranked one of Houston ISD’s top 10 schools, during his first year as principal.
Hartman’s success did not happen overnight - it required dedication and focused development from teachers and staff, and autonomous empowerment from Houston ISD. Propelled by these factors, Geovanny engaged in constant evaluation of “teachers, administrators and supporting staff, along with provided feedback” that helped move Hartman up 66 positions in the Children at Risk Report for the Greater City of Houston.
Broadly improving his school’s culture, Geovanny was able to target specific areas of needed improvement and put in place measures to augment academic success such as technology enhancements, refined strategies for engaging ESL families, and Saturday math and reading seminars for failing students. And the result was dramatic increases for Hartman’s students in all measured subjects over a year and half period: 15 percent in reading, 10 percent in science, 20 in social studies, 5 percent in writing, and 8 percent in math.
While Hartman demonstrated dramatic student growth during Geovanny’s inaugural year as the school’s leader, his development spans almost two decades. Geovanny began his journey as mechanical engineer – earning a degree from the University of Honduras. It was in this profession where his “teacher qualities emerged” and, for Geovanny, “the first indication God had more in store for me.”
Guided by a sense of urgency, Geovanny became inspired by the fact school culture impacts student achievement. Over the next 17 years, he continuously pushed himself, holding jobs such as campus network specialist and interim principal and earning degrees from the University of Houston and then REEP. Each of these experiences prepared Geovanny to be an exceptional school leader, instilling the value of “data assessment, self-assessment, and best practices,” that taught him to always “inspect what I expect” from teachers and students. Principal mentors showed Geovanny that “we acquire data in a sundry of ways” and that educators must use it to measure, provide feedback, target areas of improvement and promote student growth.
Using strategies like these, Geovanny contends that Houston ISD has been integral to Hartman’s success, as the district has empowered him to implement such systems to improve school culture and student achievement.
Geovanny’s determination, skill set, preparation, methods of accountability, and a supportive school district have all enabled him to positively impact Hartman’s students. Ever humble, Geovanny lives by the idea, “I do not have the power to change the world, but I have the power to change my school by providing effective leadership.” In being an excellent school leader, however, Geovanny has and will continue to change the worlds of the children who enter Hartman’s doors.
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 As measured by the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness for math and reading
 As measured by the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness