Albany, NY – Eva Williams, principal of Van Duyn Elementary School (VDES) in the Syracuse City School District (SCSD), has been selected as the 2021 New York State Elementary Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS who is clearly committed to excellence, has programs designed to meet the academic and social needs of all students, and has firm ties to parents and the community.
During her eight-year tenure at Van Duyn Elementary School, Williams implemented a multitude of initiatives designed to increase student achievement and decrease referrals. Some of these included, frequent two-way communication with parents, culture and climate practices including restorative circles, check in/check out partners, providing parents with opportunities to learn strategies for helping their student at home, and CHAMPS (courageous, hardworking, achievers, motivated, persistent, scholarly) incentives for both individuals and whole classrooms. Her efforts have resulted in increased student achievement and a NYS school designation from priority status to a school in good standing within just five years.
She was also recognized for making the highest increase of all schools in the district in ELA and math scores on the NYS assessments for two years in a row. Additionally, chronic and referable behaviors decreased from over 300 in 2012-13 to zero since 2016. And that accomplishment was highlighted in videos and newsletters shared by the PAXIS lnstitute and NYS Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS). Commented Executive Director of Elementary Schools Melissa Evans, “Her strong leadership skills, including her ability to create a positive climate for teaching and learning, focus on high expectations with attention on cultural responsiveness, and building a solid knowledge of academic skills with her staff makes her school a model for excellence in the SCSD and New York State.”
Believing that leadership requires a balance hinged on trust, mutual regard, and shared decision making to ensure that all stakeholders’ needs are understood and met, Williams has worked to empower parents and community members to freely advocate for the needs of students. She also believes that school must include fun in learning. To that end, VDES has hosted more than 80 monthly Family Fun in Learning Nights (FFLN). Pre-COVID, these evening events provided dinner, schoolwide data information, and an engaging activity that allows staff to engage with families. Commented parent Serena Harris, “She has been very supportive to parents like myself in the school setting as well as in the community. She has an excellent relationship with the parents and takes an interest in the educational needs and progression of each student. My children have been able to perform very well in their studies since she’s very attentive to every student.”
Commented colleague, Valerie Reese, ” Eva has been out front, not only in the way she led her own family engagement program at Van Duyn but publicly for the rest of us in the profession. She personifies all that is right about staying intentionally connected to an institution that helped to shape her life’s path.”
Commented Superintendent Jaime Alicea, “We are exceptionally proud of Van Duyn Elementary School Principal Eva Williams for being named the 2021 New York State Elementary Principal of the Year. Eva has long been committed to bridging the gap between home and school, creating connections between school staff, families and community organizations to ensure that the needs of each student are met. Her passion for supporting her students, families and staff is unparalleled. Eva is an example of the excellence we are striving for in the Syracuse City School District, and she is most deserving of this honor.”
Williams received her bachelor of arts in African-American Studies and bachelor of science in psychology from SUNY Binghamton, her master of science in counselor education from Syracuse University, and her certificate in advanced studies from SUNY Oswego.
SAANYS represents nearly 8,000 school administrators, supervisors, and coordinators. As a professional association, SAANYS is committed to providing direction, service, and support to the membership in their efforts to improve the quality of education and leadership in New York State schools. SAANYS is affiliated with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).