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DOWNEY - Dr. Robert Jagielski, well-known within the Downey school system for his work in reducing student expulsions and while simultaneously raising student attendance, was recognized last week as Administrator of the Year by a state coalition of top educators.
Jagielski received the award at a ceremony April 17 hosted by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA).
Hired as a Griffiths Middle School teacher in 1992, Jagielski would become an assistant principal at Downey High before joining the district office in 2005.
He is currently director of student services, where he works closely with school principals and administrators on matters of student discipline, "saving lives and caring for students and families who are struggling due to the economy, broken homes and broken spirits."
One of Jagielski's first actions was to restructure the department and implement a "stipulated expulsion" process that offered drug and alcohol counseling to first-time offenders involved in serious discipline issues but who are not a danger to other students.
The result was a dramatic decrease in suspensions and expulsions: in 2005-06, when Jagielski took office, 229 faced expulsion. In 2010-11, the number dropped to 94.
During the same time period, suspensions were cut by more than half.
"It is recognized that when students are facing expulsion, families are in crisis and support is needed for the parents as well," ACSA officials said of Jagielski.
Jagielski, who is bilingual in Spanish, also established monthly meetings with the school district's strategic partners, including the Downey Police Department and probation. He served as past president of Gangs Out of Downey, helped institute the Character Counts program in schools and established Anti-Bullying Week.
"Dr. Jagielski provides strong leadership and support to principals and co-administrators, in addition to advocating for doing the right things for students and their families," retired superintendent Dr. Wendy Doty said in a letter endorsing Jagielski for the award.
Anthony Zegarra, a vice principal at Downey High School, praised Jagielski for dealing with students "in a human centered way [has] helped countless students stay in school and earn diplomas."
"It is his human-centered approach to education and the issues that surround a child's journey to adulthood that makes him a truly effective individual," Zegarra said. "He gives seemingly hopeless situations avenues of hope."
Luz Perez, coordinator of the True Lasting Connections Family Resource Center that provides medical services to uninsured Downey kids, commended Jagielski for his social work.
"Robert Jagielski has a vision of creating a culture of caring throughout the district, and extending into the community by promoting the social services available to all students at TLC," Perez said. "Through this program his focus is not only on the intellectual needs of students but he also supports social and health services.
"He recognizes the link between healthy students and school success."
In addition to his duties with the Downey school district, Jagielski is also an adjunct professor at Point Loma Nazarene College.
Published: April 25, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 02