Feelings of frustration rarely lead to outstanding creations, but that is at the core of the innovative STARR program (Speaking, Technology, Analysis, and Reading through Research). In 1991, seventh grade teachers at Horizon Community Middle School in the Cherry Creek School District outside Denver, Colorado, were feeling less than successful. For many years, the small affluent district had been strictly Anglo. During the late 1980s those demographics changed drastically. Horizon found itself a pioneer in what the district was rapidly becoming. Cherry Creek transformed into a large, diverse, and mobile district, with residents in the lower socio-economic levels. Some of the present curriculum and instructional strategies were not meeting the needs of these new students. As building administrator, I shared that frustration with the staff. On the day of a seventh-grade-level meeting, I had just finished observing an outstanding lesson in a reading classroom. Dee Fabry, the reading teacher and seventh grade team leader, conveyed her insights about our new learner and how she was using information from the Goals 2000 report as a guide. At the grade level teachers' meeting, I posed the question: [What do our seventh grade students need that we presently do not provide?] That led to brainstorming sessions on identifying what these students require to prepare them for the twenty-first century and how we can provide it. Dee Fabry facilitated those discussions and the proposal for STARR was created. That summer, curriculum-writing committees, master schedule revisions, and teacher hiring all occurred to prepare for STARR in September.
Principals rarely have the opportunity to implement outstanding teacher concepts. We had a talented teacher with the curriculum and instructional knowledge to bring her visionary insights to life. Since Dee Fabry would willingly devote the necessary time and energy, we had to do all within our power to remove any obstacles. Our students were the winners because of Dee Fabry, the dedication of the first new STARR hire, Sally Seier, and the support and hard work of the teacher team, both then and now.