Profile in Education Equity: Cicely Alexander, Lubbock Partnership Network
Cicely Alexander has enjoyed a 25-year career in education and has worn many hats as teacher, principal, mother, and minister. Since 2016, she has been the executive director of the Lubbock Partnership Network (LPN) in Texas, a community-driven nonprofit that collaborates with Lubbock Independent School District (ISD) to improve outcomes for a group of low-performing schools within the district. She supports LPN school principals, oversees the budgeting process, works with community stakeholders, manages campus operations, and provides input on curricular decisions. Let’s get to know her better.
Share one big success from your work to date and how you measured success.
Four years ago, I made the decision to leave a high-performing school as principal, to inherit a four-year Improvement Required campus, which was in jeopardy of closing. In just two years, my team and I moved that campus from an F to a B Texas Education Agency (TEA) rating. Because of this success, I was recruited to become the executive director of the Lubbock ISD In-District Charter, the Lubbock Partnership Network. My new responsibilities are to support four campuses, one of which is a seven-year, Improvement Required middle school. We went into a three-year contract with TEA to strategically get this middle school to meet state standards. Administrators, teachers, and I are all vested and accountable to one another in keeping the doors of this school open.
What motivates you to advocate for education equity?
After more than two decades in education, I was on a smooth road, winding down a wonderful career path. I was almost eligible for retirement, after leading a high-performing school to even higher performance. This was my trajectory, until I decided to jump from my comfort zone into the most provocative challenge of my career when I accepted the position to lead Alderson Elementary, which had been an Improvement Required campus for four years and was the highest impoverished school in Lubbock ISD. A colleague whispered in my ear before knowing that I had accepted the position, “Now that’s career suicide, taking on THAT school!” But all I could hear in my ear was my mother’s advice: “Cicely, if you don’t want to take on the challenge, then who will?” The next leader of this impoverished school has to WANT to be there!
That is exactly what my team and I did. For me, turning Alderson around was personal. My husband and his nine siblings attended Alderson many years ago. My 92-year-old father-in-law still lives just blocks away. The classrooms at Alderson have my husband’s fourth-generation cousins; and this school’s survival was contingent upon our success. I couldn’t fail this community — my community.
So, it was my honor for two years, standing at the entrance of the most impoverished school in Lubbock ISD and greeting my students daily with a smile. I was fully aware that I was shaking the hands of those who would be in the driver’s seat and leading this great country. I was tasked to lead my school out of Improvement Required status to one that Met Standards.
What’s your favorite quote? Why?
“If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life!”
This quote resonates with me because my career has been a labor of love. I have been a teacher, math specialist, behavior counselor, assistant principal, principal, and now executive director. I unequivocally believe that every experience, positive or negative, is a building block that builds a foundation for the next phase. On this journey, I have learned from supervisors with a range of temperaments; from angry, as well as from gracious parents; compliant, as well as the most difficult of students. I have jumped hurdles and climbed professional mountains that have taught me some crucial life lessons that I could have never learned from a textbook. These experiences have created thick skin and a toolbox of experiences to prepare me for each passing day to support those whom I serve.
What’s next regarding your work?
I am humbled to the point of my brown skin turning blush red, when Lubbock ISD Superintendent Dr. Kathy Rollo refers to me as a mini-superintendent. This is because our job duties are sometimes parallel. We both answer to unique seven member boards. Additionally, my job duties as executive director of the Lubbock ISD, In-District Charter, coined the Lubbock Partnership Network (LPN), include many duties that are expected of a traditional superintendent.
Of all the things that I have learned from Dr. Rollo, what resonates at my core is that the superintendent must push past politics and put personal and even adult agendas secondary. Primarily, every decision must have at its core, the best interest of students. These experiences have led me to my next steps of being a student again! I started the spring semester of 2019 as a doctoral student at Texas Tech University, where I am in the educational leadership program with a focus on school improvement. I hope to positively influence student success on an even greater scale.