Milwaukee School Principal Is "For Real" About Loving Kids
By Christopher Chavez and Caitlin Miller
53rd Street School Principal Bridgette Hood spends a lot of time with her students – 90 to 95 percent to be exact. Hood does not like to be in her office during the day. She engages with students in the classroom and supervises throughout the school.
The depth at which Hood is committed to students extends beyond 53rd Street.
A 14-year-old girl recently pleaded with Hood for help after being placed in different group and foster homes. After telling the girl she would be fine, Hood started undergoing the process of becoming a licensed foster parent for the child.
“I said to her, the most important thing that you could ever do for me is to do well in school and be respectful to yourself and to the adults who work with you,” Hood said. “She said, ‘If that’s all you’re asking me, I can do that.’”
There are 182 principals in the Milwaukee Public School System. Hood is an asset to the community because of her faith, patience, and genuine concern for each student.
“Kids. That’s my passion,” Hood said. “I was the kind of student to always be involved in extracurricular activities. I had other individuals who were passionate and cared about me, who were over those activities. Because of what I experienced, I felt like I had to give that back.”
Since she took over as principal in 2007, the school has increased academic achievement in reading and math between 8 and 10 percent. The GE Foundation will provide $20.4 million to 10 Milwaukee Public Schools until 2016 in an effort to increase student achievement. 53rd Street School is one of the participants. The program allows math and literacy coaches for students and additional support for professional development.
“We are hoping to utilize those resources effectively and with fidelity to become a demonstration school for the district and maybe even the state,” Hood said.
Hood is no stranger to Milwaukee. Both her children are products of the Milwaukee Public Schools much like she was while growing up in the city. Hood has been with the district for 27 years. She worked at an alternative school for five years before teaching for 15. She accepted the position as principal in January 2007 when 53rd Street was transitioning to a K-8 school.
“I believe that this is all meant to be,” Hood said. “God put me here for a reason. He equipped me for this type of job.”
Elizabeth Turner has been teaching at the school for 12 years. She noticed changes – both academically and structurally – when Hood took over. Turner credits the success to Hood’s familiarity with the education system.
“Her heart is in the right place,” Turner said. “I think part of the reason she is so good at what she does is because she has walked in every job within the school.”
Five years ago, Hood was away at a conference for two days. As she listened to the speaker, Hood kept thinking about her students. She began to write the 53rd Street School creed to show her students that she did believe in them – that they can take control of their destiny.
“The kids recite it every single day by way of the PA system,” Hood said. “It’s not just by memory that we’re reciting this. It’s mainly that we want you to believe it.”
Velicia Buchanan Cooper is a teacher and parent to a second-grade. She interacts with Hood during meetings, in the classroom, and at events outside school and notices her genuine love for the children.
“As a parent, the one thing I love is that she always puts the child first,” Buchanan Cooper said. “She looks at the child first before anything.”
Hood is a woman of strong faith and has thought of how she wants to be remembered at 53rd Street School. Her main focus right now is her family, but says the students are right up there.
“It’s the kids who make me who I am,” Hood said. “It’s the kids. It’s all about the kids.”