Stand UP Profile: Principal Lionel Cable+Share
When asked about the challenges at Douglass Elementary, a 95% free and reduced school in Memphis, Principal Lionel Cable politely reframes the question to better fit his world view. “The challenges that are here at Douglass,” he says, “are opportunities as well.”
The year before Cable took over as principal, students at Douglass had dropped from 75% proficient on state tests to less than 3% (Tennessee had raised its standards). When Cable arrived, he first worked with the teachers to increase student achievement through a laser-focus on student data. He brought GED and a job placement program into the school. And he volunteered Douglass as the first ever Tennessee school to host Stand University for Parents. “Things happen because they’re supposed to happen,” Cable says, “and God just allowed Stand to fall in my lap.”
When he first met Ryan Tracy, the Stand UP Manager in Tennessee, Cable saw they shared a vision: every child deserves a world class education, and involved parents are a critical part of this quality education.
Principal Cable explains the difference in the 20 parents who graduated from Stand UP this spring as “tremendous.” First, he says, there’s the partnership with the school. The Stand UP graduates are engaging Douglass educators in a way they didn’t before-- conversations are more open and more focused on specific student learning. “Parents are inquiring about student data now,” he says. “More importantly, they know how to read it.”
Stand UP parents are also increasingly discerning in terms of what is best for their children. They’re looking at each teacher’s data and are starting to ask Principal Cable to place their children in certain teacher’s classes. “In the past, we could schedule them wherever we wanted,” Cable says. He says this is a good thing for everyone. A little bit of questioning can challenge schools become more rigorous.
"At low performing schools, parents don’t question enough,” Cable says. “In order for teachers to grow instructionally, parents need to be engaged.”
Cable also knows several Stand UP graduate who have gone back to school themselves, enrolling in the GED program offered at Douglass.
Ms. Goliday, a grandmother of six who graduated from Stand UP in May, is another example of the impact of Stand UP at Douglass. After learning to read student data and discovering that her kids were behind in school, Ms. Goliday enrolled each of her grandchildren in out-of-school reading and writing programs so they could catch up. “Those kids did not rest this summer,” Cable chuckles admiringly.
One day, Principal Cable sees Stand UP as a requirement for all Pre-K through 2nd grade parents at Douglass. “What Stand stands for—it compliments my vision for the school and for the community,” Cable says. “My parents [who graduated], who have been shown the data on their kids, they’re very different. They understand how their children are being compared to kids all over the world.” Their attitude now, Cable says, is focused: “I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to get my kids ahead.”
Though Principal Cable refuses to accept any thanks for bringing Stand UP to his school (he insists he just got out of Ryan’s way) Ryan says that’s not the case. “By investing 100% in family engagement, Mr. Cable set the example for his teachers, parents, and students. Working with him has taught me firsthand the importance of having a strong leader in a school.”
Robin Campbell, a Douglass parent, Stand UP Graduate, and now a coordinator for Stand UP in the school, also credits Principal Cable for helping Douglass improve. She says Cable has brought diversity into the school through a new E.S.L. program, and is challenging the students through chess club and more structure and discipline. Describing Cable as “stern and focused” Campbell believes that he is setting the right tone at her daughter’s school. “Principal Cable,” she says, “believes that every child has a chance and should go to college.”