Leaders and role models take all forms. An impressive one happens to be the youngest principal in Shelby County Schools, where he serves the young students, teachers and staff of Bruce Elementary. Archie Moss Jr. is principal of Bruce, but to only recognize him by his title of school principal isn’t enough. When Moss took over at Bruce three years ago, the school was in the bottom 10 percent of schools in Tennessee. Today, he and his staff have worked to close the achievement gaps, earning Reward school status from the state and removing it from the Tennessee priority list.
Moss, who is a graduate of New Leaders – an organization that helps train, mentor and equip principals and teachers for success – tries different avenues to help his scholars find success. The school focuses on the students as people. One of those ways came earlier this year when he noticed that while the school made significant gains in math and science, reading wasn’t improving as much. So the school’s leadership brainstormed ways to build a culture of reading. The school’s librarian presented the idea of Moss reading books live on Facebook.
“I was skeptical,” he said. “I didn’t want to read to myself. I wondered if anyone would even sign on. So I was surprised when I first logged on and we already had 40 online. The video ended up being shared and viewed over 1,000 times. I only have 500-plus kids in my building so that means so many other individuals in Memphis had the opportunity to hear different bedtime stories.”
Moss chooses books that represent the school’s students. He reads once a week on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. on Bruce Elementary’s Facebook page. The plan is to continue through the summer. Moss is hopeful other schools will pick up the idea and read books on other nights of the week.
Outside the classroom, Moss teamed up with three other New Leaders trained principals to help start the Shelby County Schools Elementary Basketball League that plays games in the fall and spring. The recent spring season had 24 schools with 300 athletes. “By placing our scholars on a team, it changes their behavior at school,” he said. “They work relentlessly in the classroom. The league strengthens the school’s educational environment because scholars are working hard to make sure they stay out of trouble. I’m excited to find different initiatives to get students excited. Initiatives like bedtime stories and the basketball league have been born from the idea that we have to think about extraordinary ideas to produce extraordinary outcomes.”
Moss started the basketball league as part of his nonprofit organization, The Gentlemen’s League. He started the organization as an all-male mentorship program when he previously lived in Charlotte. It seeks to educate and empower males to lead them to a path to success. It offers monthly workshops that cover topics such as financial literacy, dress for success and character development. In addition to the basketball league, the organization for boys in third through eighth grades supports activities such as step teams and peer mentoring. “The boys can’t be what they can’t see,” Moss said. “If they don’t see men doing great things in the community and in life, they won’t know it exists.”
Volunteers are welcome to help mentor boys or assist in workshops. Donations are welcome and can be made at thegentsleague.org.
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