Liz Dozier isn’t quite ready to talk about her next move.
In June, the former Fenger Academy High School principal announced that she would not be returning to the South Side, Chicago based public school she has served for the past six years. Though Dozier admits, “Its definitely been an interesting and an enjoyable ride,” the closing bell has rung and she is ready to take the next step in her career.
Dozier, 37, was thrust into the spotlight in 2014, when CNN brought cameras on school grounds for its eight-part docu-series “Chicagoland.” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Police Department superintendent Garry McCarthy played major roles in the show, however it was Dozier who emerged as a beloved heroine – aggressively seeking funding and support for her school.
The network captured “a small piece of our story,” Dozier tells EBONY. “They focused on a couple of kids that had extraordinary issues and circumstances but that’s not the only ‘type of kid’ that we had at Fenger High School. Overall, the gist of what CNN aired was representative of what we faced every single day.”
Despite the difficulties, Dozier and her staff managed to transform the underperforming school by using restorative justice methods and integrating social-emotional learning into classrooms. Their turnaround has been heavily documented in dozens of articles and the NY Times best-selling book “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character” by Paul Tough.
“When you think about where we were six years ago, and where the school stood when I left, it’s in a much different place,” says Dozier. “That first year , there were over 300 arrests inside the school building, constant gang fights, and constant chaos. It’s insane when you think about it. You can’t really contribute that [turnaround] to anything but the grace of God… It’s not about me, it’s really about the team that was there too, and their ability to persevere and be resilient during really tough times and carry us through to where we ended up.”
In the coming months, Dozier plans to announce her new position to the public. Wherever her journey takes her, she remains firm in her belief “that it’s important to go where your passion lies, and where you feel most called to be.”
Below, Dozier shares several tips with EBONY for both students and parents on how to navigate “Back to School” season.
- Get to know your child’s teacher. I think it helps in general throughout the school year. Get to know your child’s teacher at the beginning. Who your child’s teacher is and what the program is going to be for the school year.
- Find a way to become invested in the school. Even if it’s something small. It’s like a try-out. The parent and the school are supporting the child. If the parent and the school are on the same page it sets the child up for a much better experience.
- Sometimes, children experience anxiety when it comes to starting the school year again. You got the summer and you’ve been playing outside and you haven’t had that regimented schedule. Just being patient with kids as they transition to a much more structured environment.Always connect with your child. Finding out how their day went, finding out who they’re hanging out with. I think you do still have to be as vigilant.
- Just have fun with it. Back to School can be all those things, structures and routines. As you go school shopping with your child, try to make it a really fun experience so they can have a really good memory of their experience of going back to school.
- I always try to tell my kids, it’s a brand new school year. It’s a fresh start. You can be whoever you want to be.
- Set goals. It’s always good to have a particular set of goals and it doesn’t have to be anything academic. It may be to push yourself to join a sports team, or try a new club, or make friends, strive for a certain GPA. I think to set a goal is really important.