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New Principal Named at Escuela SMART Bilingual Academy

By LaPrensa Staff


Toledo, July 6, 2021: Toledo’s Escuela SMART Academy will be under new leadership this fall, as the former charter school has achieved public school status and met its student growth goals.

Outgoing principal Jessica Molina, who has been with the school since its start as a charter school in the 2014-15 academic year, is departing. Perrysburg Schools hired her as assistant director of student services and well-being. She starts her new position Aug. 1.


Natasha Allen and Jessica Molina

“It is really bittersweet, but I would say mostly I’m really proud,” said Ms. Molina. “We grew Escuela SMART from the ground up. It was an independent charter school when we started. Earlier in my career, I wouldn’t have felt like I was in a place where I could just walk away and know it’s going to be okay. But I think because of how strongly we built the school and now how embedded it is in TPS, I’m walking away confident knowing it’s going to be in great hands with Ms. Allen and she’s actually going to propel the school forward. I’m really confident about that.”


Natasha Allen, who spent nearly a decade as principal and assistant principal at Keyser Elementary, will take over leadership of the magnet school, which is entering its third year as a Toledo Public Schools elementary.


“I am excited to learn the ropes of Escuela SMART and work with the community to support our students and their families,” said Ms. Allen, who just wrapped up summer school at Keyser. As a result, she has not yet had the opportunity to dive deeply into the situation at Escuela SMART, but hopes to meet parents, students, teachers and staff in the coming weeks.


“You can talk to people at her school and they’ll all say the same thing—that she’s an amazing principal,” said Ms. Molina.


Ms. Allen, 42, has served TPS for 20 years as both a teacher and an administrator.

She also has served as the dean of students at Leverette Middle School. Ms. Allen has two daughters, a University of Toledo student and an incoming freshman at Whitmer HS.


“I absolutely love Keyser. I love the students. I love the families. I build really close connections with them. That’s what I like to do,” said Ms. Allen, who served there four years as assistant principal and five years as principal. “So I like to build a family within my school. I do that with my staff. I do that with my students. I know all of them by name. I never thought I’d leave.”


Ms. Allen, who grew up in Lorain County, graduated with an education degree from Bowling Green State University. TPS hired the teacher of Puerto Rican descent right out of college at a time when district officials strategically tried to add more diversity to its teaching ranks. She has since added two master’s degrees, one from the University of Toledo and one from the University of Findlay. It’s her culture that’s bringing her to Escuela SMART.


“I feel it’s very important for students of my culture to see a leader in the building like themselves that can encourage them to do anything they want to do, including being teachers or a school principal as well,” said Ms. Allen. “I find that very important, the cultural piece.”


“She has a reputation that really stands out for itself,” said Ms. Molina. “If anything, she just made it so that it was undeniable to look past her. To know that there was somebody within the district who I trusted the position with and felt confident walking away, that’s what felt the best.”


The upcoming school year is the first time Escuela SMART will have two sixth grade classrooms, meaning the school has achieved its growth goals—to have two classrooms in each grade, K-6 Current enrollment stands at 275 students, with some individual slots open in pre-K and kindergarten. Late summer enrollments will push that number to 300. 2014-15 was Molina’s first academic year at Escuela SMART. This is the school’s third academic year with TPS.


“We’re really fortunate to have families who really appreciate our school. We have quality teachers and word gets around about that, so we’ve been really fortunate that people seek us out to enroll,” said Ms. Molina, noting the school has students from Bowling Green, Maumee, and Springfield school districts.


“It is a huge success. We started the charter school because we felt there wasn’t enough services provided to our families,” added Ms. Molina. “So to be at a place now where the school is embedded in the public school system, it’s nice to know we took something there was a need for and we able to grow it to a place where it’s now part of the system.”


“I want to continue the communication and support from the community. There’s a lot of local organizations helping out with those families that need that support,” said Ms. Allen. “I also want to connect with a couple events coming to TPS in Sept. and Oct. that can be useful for our families as well the community. I will benefit our Escuela parents and families. I want to continue to have events at the school that support our families and students.”


Lourdes Santiago, one of the original school sponsors also is leaving. She’s moving out of state. Ms. Santiago and Ms. Molina will both serve as ex-officio advisory board members, so they will stay involved, just in a different capacity.


While Ms. Molina continuously deflects any individual credit for the success of Escuela SMART Academy and gave it to the school’s founders, board, teachers, and others, she did admit that it feels good both personally and professionally to see the school succeed.


“When you set a goal for yourself and you reach that goal, there’s no greater feeling than that,” said Ms. Molina. “I feel really proud to be able to help get the school to where it is.”



Copyright © 1989 to 2021 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07/06/21 20:29:55 -0700.




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