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Rockbrook Elementary School

Mr. Higginbotham Named Administrator of the Year

Posted May 24, 2019


Garret Higginbotham, Principal of Rockbrook Elementary, has been honored with the 2018-2019 Dr. Jim Tangdall Beacon Award for Administrator of the Year at Westside Community Schools.

Mr. Higginbotham was nominated by multiple colleagues, parents, and staff members for his leadership, dedication, and talents in building relationships throughout his school and the community. The award is named for Dr. Jim Tangdall, who served Westside for nearly four decades as a math teacher, basketball coach, principal and superintendent.

“<Garret> embodies all the attributes that Dr. Jim Tangdall stood for during his tenure at Westside,” wrote one nominator. “From day one, Garret has spent his time developing relationships with students, families and staff at Westside. His focus has not been to make friends by accommodating every request, but to be fair and consistent. When a person leaves their interaction with Garret, they might not have what they wanted, but they certainly leave with a clear understanding of the outcome and a respect for Garret that they did not have prior.”

Several nominators also stress Higginbotham’s skills in school management, and his willingness to share structures and operations guidelines with other principals. While he is sought out by colleagues for his knowledge of curriculum and leadership, he is also a trusted source of information and guidance by parents and community members. For example, Higginbotham united parents, neighbors and other community leaders to address school safety concerns regarding access, parking, and traffic issues.

He is also a constant advocate for all learners, this year, organizing Westside Unified Activities during the 2018-2019 school year. Each month, Higginbotham coordinated efforts at each Westside elementary school involving students of all abilities to spread respect, inclusion, and engagement throughout our district. By years end, these events had surged in popularity through Westside Community Schools, thanks to Higginbotham’s strategic communications plans, newsletters, and grassroots ‘word of mouth’ due to the success of each activity. He also raised money personally for Special Olympics, participating in the Polar Plunge on behalf of special needs students at his school.

Garret Higginbotham is perhaps best known and loved for his dedication to building relationships with everyone who interacts with Rockbrook, and Westside Community Schools. One nominator described how he arranged for an entire class to surprise a Rockbrook teacher with flowers (at his own cost) when she was named Teacher of the Month. Many of the adults in the room, including the honored teacher, were in tears.

“I’ve never met anyone that goes out of their way to be so inclusive,” said one nominator. “Garret always makes time to hear his teachers’ concerns and interests. He tries his best to immediately attend to any issues when presented, but also knows that sometimes staff needs to vent, so he just listens. His commitment to community also stretches far beyond the walls of Rockbrook. He is at every event after school hours and weekends to show support. He dedicates much of his personal time to being present and showing representation from Rockbrook.”

A parent echoes that, describing how she often sees Higginbotham on weekends doing everything from supporting his students in their extracurricular events, and even working on landscaping at the school.

“Every single morning, regardless the weather conditions, Garret opens each car door to help students out,” said one nominator. “He greets each by name, gives a quick hello and wave inside the car, and heads to greet the next student. As a parent, I notice these actions, but it also impacts our children.”

“As a parent, I want a principal who truly cares about my children and is a proven leader and advocate for their school and students,” said a nominator. “As an administrator, I want a principal who is constantly promoting their building and Westside in positive ways. Garret Higginbotham is all of this. He is a collaborative educator, a team-player always willing to do more, a leader in technology and story-telling, and a man who goes above and beyond to ensure children and staff members grow in his school and love every moment.”

Garret Higginbotham will receive $2,500 thanks to Dr. Jim Tangdall’s family, longtime supporters of Westside Community Schools.

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