MAESP 2023

Lake Road’s Vaughn named MAESP Exemplary New Principal ​
Posted on 03/07/2023
Rondi Vaughn

Rondi Vaughn, who is in her third year leading Lake Road Elementary, has been named Southeast Region’s 2023 Exemplary New Principal by the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals. She, along with 10 colleagues across the state, were recognized Monday, March 6, during the annual MAESP Leadership Conference at Osage Beach.

“It’s humbling, but it also speaks volumes about a supportive staff that takes someone from outside their building during a time when education is difficult, and works together to put students first,” Vaughn said. “When everyone has that common mission, leaders don’t have to go out front; leadership is side by side.”

Vaughn was nominated for the award by Eugene Field Principal Jennifer Taylor, a MAESP Distinguished Principal honoree last year. Taylor, who serves on the region’s legislative committee, explained how the organization’s executive team submitted this year’s nominations for its approximate 100 members to cast votes.

Criteria established for the award include demonstrating a clear commitment to building excellence within the school community; developing programs designed to meet the needs of all students; and establishing firm ties to parents and the community. Taylor said that besides building on the progress of her predecessor Erica Weadon, Vaughn has been active in the statewide organization while managing to balance her daily responsibilities.

“She invests time to build her professional learning network and values collaboration opportunities with other administrators both within and outside of our district,” Taylor stated. “She is very humble and credits her successes to the relationships that have been nurtured through peer collaboration.”

Lake Road has achieved gold-level recognition through the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program from 2017-2022; was named a national showcase school under the Capturing Kids’ Hearts initiative from 2018-2021; was listed as No. 14 of the ‘Best Elementary Schools’ in Missouri by U.S. News & World Report in 2021; and received both the National ESEA Distinguished School and prestigious National Blue Ribbon honors in 2018.

In addition to taking the helm as principal at the peak of the public health crisis, Vaughn helped to complete Lake Road's phase-in plan to include grade six during the 2020/21 school year. One challenge in expanding the configuration, according to Vaughn, has been meeting the broad spectrum of needs for the different age levels. On the plus side, she continued, major office referrals for the upperclassmen presently have been documented at less than 10 since cultural expectations become so well-established.

Since the campus opened its doors back up to visitors this year, Vaughn said lunch buddies with groups such as Three Rivers College Raiders Basketball and other relationships via the elementary school’s Bright Futures Site Council are at a high. During club day, students have been able to play football at Mules Stadium, perform on stage with the Drama Club, plant with the agriculture class at PBHS, swim at the Black River Coliseum and practice gymnastics through a business partnership. The Rotary Club Good Habits Store recently celebrated its 10th anniversary sponsoring an exclusive program designed to reward students for good behavior, attendance and academics.

With a Sparklight donation of a computer cart last school year, Lake Road was able to start its ‘Kids Who Code’ club, teaching coding to students during latchkey before the school day. Lake Road was also selected to distribute free Scholastic books to students via the United States of Readers program on Vaughn’s watch. New this year, her MAESP biography notes, the district’s elementary schools have replaced the science curriculum with Project Lead The Way Launch, a problem/project-based teaching approach. Also grant-funded, the district implemented its refocus rooms as an alternative to internal suspension with oversight from retooled restorative support instruction positions.

“Rondi is always making sure that we have the tools, training, resources and support that we need to be successful,” said Amanda Johnson, Lake Road reading and math interventionist. “Her open-door policy makes us comfortable to come to her with any ideas, concerns or questions we might have… In this world of teaching that comes with so many ups and downs, those acts of thoughtfulness mean a lot and really help build a sense of community at Lake Road.”

Since 1998, Vaughn has taught elementary students before becoming an interventionist herself, working approximately a decade respectively at Eugene Field and Oak Grove, where she was named Teacher of the Year at each neighborhood school. She holds dual master’s degrees, one in curriculum/instruction from William Woods University in Fulton, and another in elementary administration from Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau. Next week she plans to begin her qualitative research toward her doctorate in educational leadership from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.


Cutline: Lake Road Elementary School Principal Rondi Vaughn was named a 2023 Exemplary New Principal by the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals on Monday, March 6, at Osage Beach.

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