Tier II leaders attend New Leader Institute ahead of school year

For Ashly Evans Vining, the fall season means she gets to return to the two places she loves the most: the classroom and the stage.

The trained opera singer —who has been performing professionally for 15 years— is ready to see students back in the classroom and also recently received her schedule for the new season with Houston Grand Opera.

She is also embarking on a new journey this year in her educational career. The former choir director and Section 504 coordinator was recently chosen to serve as the assistant principal at Pin Oak Middle School. This week, she attended the New Leaders Institute with other new Tier II leaders from across the district, including other assistant principals, deans, instructional specialists, and teacher specialists.

“It is so important to network with other assistant principals [and leaders], to understand how this district works,” Evans Vining said. “This district is so big, so having these opportunities is really important to grow and improve.”

This week’s NLI was the second week of the event. Last week, new principals attended sessions to help them prepare for the 2021-2022 school year.

Superintendent Millard House attended the first day of both weeks. At the NLI for Tier II leaders this week, he spoke about the importance of creating a team of mentors and confidantes.

“You are not alone,” House told the attendees. “You have everyone in this room—myself included—to help you keep your spirits up, to create innovative and dynamic campuses with passionate students ready to learn.”

After greeting many of the new leaders during their breakfast session, House emphasized the importance of “building capacity” and promoting new leaders from within the ranks of educators already in HISD.

“Growing our own is extremely important,” House said. “We have incredible talent in HISD. And what better way to show appreciation of our employees by building our own within our ranks.”

For Evans Vining, who has spent her entire educational career with HISD—first at Bellaire High School, then at Meyerland Middle School, and now with Pin Oak—she said that district support was “instrumental” in making her the leader she is today. She also reiterated that events like NLI help prepare—and inspire—her for the new school year.

“I am really looking forward to getting the kids back in person,” she said. “We’re going to have to focus on the gaps and focus on how we can help [the students] succeed, whatever that may be. If that means that they need food or clothing or whatever they need to help in that educational success.”