Strengthening a Merchant of Hope

Erick Witherspoon , principal, Lena M. Preston Elementary School, Rialto

For Erick Witherspoon, the Ed.D program is about justice and equity for students.

Transcript of the interview:

Rialto Principal Erick Witherspoon says that in his role as school leader he is a "merchant of hope" for students, parents and staff.

"The phrase ‘merchant of hope’ really speaks to me because it describes the work that we should be doing. The belief is that no matter what obstacles might exist, success can occur with hard work and perseverance. It says that failure is not an option."

Witherspoon said Redlands' decision to emphasize educational justice lured him to the program.

"Educational justice speaks to every level of equity for students. It means equal access to the curriculum, eliminating discrepancies that have failed students in the past. The idea that we can eradicate those injustices is empowering to our work as educators."

Witherspoon said the program has led him to become even more resolute in his efforts to bring hope to his school community.

"This program has reaffirmed who I am and the commitment I have made. It has reaffirmed my tenacity – my ruthless commitment that we absolutely cannot give up on our kids. I would unequivocally recommend this program as second to none. It's an enriching, cultivating experience for anyone that wants to ensure all students' unconditional success."

Witherspoon's work has already brought him statewide accolades, landing his school the California School Boards Association's Golden Bell Award in 2006. The award recognized a variety of innovative programs at Lena M. Preston Elementary School, where students have made dramatic gains on state achievement tests.

School leaders have worked to create a culture where academic achievement, particularly in the areas of math and science, is celebrated. Monthly awards ceremonies are held to honor students who have mastered new math skills. Parents also are invited to attend coffee meetings, where they learn how to reinforce the concepts their children are learning in class.

The University has a long tradition of encouraging and supporting study abroad.

More than 47 percent of Redlands undergraduates participate in study abroad programs.

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