Haitian-American principal honored for work with immigrant children
By Bill Hirschman
Posted February 25, 2005
CORAL SPRINGS · Growing up a Haitian immigrant, North Side Elementary Principal Michaelle Valbrun-Pope sometimes denied her own heritage.
"I went years when I wasn't Haitian. I wanted so badly to be accepted. I'd be Jamaican, I'd be anything else. Total denial," she once said.
That's why when she was assigned to North Side Elementary in Fort Lauderdale's Little Haiti, her mission became to instill pride in children who were amazed to find a Haitian-Amer
ican leading the school.
After more than 15 years of bolstering children's self-esteem, Broward's first Haitian-American principal was honored Thursday with the school district's highest tribute for an administrator, the ACCLAIM Award.
The assistant principal award was given to Marci Lindemann of Riverglades Elementary in Coral Springs.
Other finalists for the principal award were: Helen Akers, Plantation Park Elementary; Marion Ann Fee, Lakeside Elementary School; and Sherry Patire, Seminole Middle School.
Other finalists for the assistant principal's award were: Wendy Galinsky, Davie Elementary; Claudia McGrath, Virginia Shuman Young Elementary; and Elaine Saef, Panther Run Elementary.
"I am motivated by the faces of my children every day," said Valbrun-Pope at the awards ceremony in Coral Springs.
Ninety percent of North Side's 537 students are Haitian-Americans and live below the poverty line. Nearly a third speak little or no English.
Many pose ch
allenges not found in the principals' handbook.
She created a program for students to create book libraries at home, as well as a literacy program for families.
Valbrun-Pope also sponsored Haitian cultural events on campus and celebrated Haitian Flag Day.
Test scores at the school have risen under her leadership, boosting the school's performance from a D to a C under state standards and helping more than half her students read on grade level.
"There are so many of us working below the radar to change the lives of children," she said in an acceptance speech. "So I'm just a poster child for people working under the radar."
Ernest Hamilton, principal of Lauderdale Manors Elementary, said Valbrun-Pope deserved the honor.
"Her secret is the passion and the love that she has her children for her staff and for the community," he said.
Bill Hirschman can be reached at email@example.com