October 15, 2021 by HCDE-Texas
Academic and Behavioral School East (ABS East) Principal Donna Treviño Jones’ vision for her school is to establish an environment where students succeed academically while learning to overcome obstacles in their lives.
“My word for this year is legacy. Legacy, to me, is to leave a place better than you found it,” said Treviño-Jones. “I see the growth in our kids. By the time they’re leaving, they are using the skills we have taught them on how to respond [to difficult situations]. They’re also ready to go back to their schools on grade level.”
With bilingual and special education certifications, Treviño-Jones ensures her staff is equipped to create a fun, engaging learning environment that places as much value on instruction as behavioral support. By celebrating students’ progress regardless of magnitude, she fosters a culture of positivity felt by students, parents, and educators alike.
Treviño-Jones says her job is very different from any other school leadership position she has held. Like traditional schools, ABS East values academic achievement, but its primary goal is preparing its students to be self-sufficient, productive contributors in their communities. It is a great responsibility, but she says she sleeps well at night knowing that goal is attainable with the help of her team.
“I have a great group of people around me,” she said. “I have two of the most amazing assistant principals I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. The patience, the love, the knowledge, the skill set, the intellect—everything that they have is suited for these children.”
The true difference, she says, between being principal at ABS East and her previous roles is the alignment of the vision and goals for schools and students between campus leadership and executive leadership in HCDE’s Schools division. The support she receives from the superintendent, assistant superintendent, and divisions such as the Center for Grants Development is unlike any she has had before.
“If changes need to be made or if we need certain programs or to buy certain things, we have an alignment to make that happen,” said Treviño-Jones.
When building her team, she looks for people who have the students’ best interests at heart, seek to make connections, and display flexibility and agility. In an environment dealing with adaptive behavior, teachers must be able to help a student in distress and address the instructional needs of their classrooms.
“It’s a combination of instructional and behavior support, so I’m looking for staff that have a high stamina and, more importantly, are open to building those relationships with students and staff,” said Treviño-Jones.
Assistant Principal Cherissa Jordan attests to the culture her principal promotes. When talking about her school’s leader, Jordan describes an “inspirational” woman.
“She’s a good advocate not only for her staff but for the students,” said Jordan. “I know I don’t look at the kids here as ‘at risk.’ They’re ‘at promise’ because we have to make sure they look at that positive aspect, and that’s what she’s always striving and pushing for.”
Treviño-Jones encourages each of her employees to reach their full potential and often asks them what they are doing to achieve their career goals.
“I like that drive because I’m the same way with the staff members. I’m driving them, too,” said Jordan.
Every day brings new challenges when working at ABS East. However, Educational Aide Thomas Wilson shares that he has grown as an instructor and as an individual under the support of Treviño-Jones.
“She is the glue to this group because she likes to pull people together,” said Wilson. “She would probably be the coach of the team. The coach [has] their playbook, and they want you to run and keep running the plays over and over again until it’s second nature, but she’s there for you to help you through. She has a vision of making sure that we’re all on one team.”
The greatest testament to any leader is the trust placed in them by their team. Wilson, among others, demonstrates the confidence his principal inspires.
“Dr. Jones, just keep doing what you’re doing, and we’re going to follow you,” he said. “We’re on your side. We’re with you all the way.”