On paper, Emma M. Carrillo is in charge at Esperanza Elementary, but the longtime principal will be the first to tell you it’s not a one-woman show.
Rather, Carrillo has made it a point to cultivate a school full of leaders — teachers who take ownership in the south-side school’s vision, student learning and building strong relationships with parents.
The effort has paid off at the high-achieving campus, which serves 650 students — more than 90 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch. Last year, the school earned a grade of B from the Arizona Department of Education.
Now, Carrillo is receiving recognition as the sole finalist in Pima County for the Rodel Exemplary Principal award — one of 13 finalists named from across the state.
Carrillo was selected for her ability to inspire her staff to contribute to schoolwide success and the development of a campus that is high-achieving, safe, orderly and welcoming.
While Carrillo has chosen to work in a high-needs school, the bar for both teachers and students has always been high, she said.
“We may be in a high-poverty area, but I’m proud to say our community is very involved in education,” Carrillo said. “They want the best for their kids, and I haven’t come across a time where poverty has been used as an excuse.”
With a firm belief that all children can learn, Carrillo works to make sure her teachers deliver the best by spending time on professional development, making sure that teachers are collaborating and using data to inform instruction and celebrating the many accomplishments .
Sunnyside Unified School District Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo nominated Carrillo for the honor, calling her a shining example of what a principal should be.
“Emma has really transformed her school into an extraordinary learning community for students and teachers,” Isquierdo said. “She’s a leader among leaders.”
Despite the praise, Carrillo insists that Esperanza’s success is not the result of her efforts alone.
“Esperanza is a high- achieving school because of the culture,” she said. “It’s the people in the building that make a difference at our school.”