Moulton Elementary School Principal Makes Good on Promise, Sports New Hairdo

Debi Culbertson recently streaked her hair as a reward to students for their tremendous growth on the 2010-2011 Academic Performance Index.

Some principals will go all out for their students, even if it means sporting rainbow-colored hair.

Debi Culbertson is one of those educators who follows through on promises to students. She proved that Monday morning when she revealed her newly-streaked hair at a special morning flag assembly, attended by guest Capistrano Unified School District Trustee Anna Bryson. As students cheered, Culbertson entered the room in disguise, wearing a large floppy hat and nose glasses. Underneath the hat was a streak of colors that one might expect to see in the Wizard of Oz.

She said the hairdo makeover is result of the "tremendous growth in the 2010-2011 Academic Performance Index (API) growth at her school and a promise." Because Moulton was 11 points away from 900, students were given an incentive, by Culbertson, to do their very best and meet a goal of 900.

The incentive was that if Moulton students met a 900 API, she would color streak her hair any one color the students voted for the entire month of October.

“I love my hairdo for what it represents," she said. "At school having a principal with rainbow hair is magical and fun for me, too! The kids look at me with wonderment in their eyes and have so many positive comments and questions like 'Did that hurt? Your hair is so beautiful, will you have to cut out the steaks in November?'"

She said while out and about in public she has received some interesting responses, such as: “Lose a bet?” or “Your hair is cool; did you do that for Halloween?” 

Culbertson said stylist Alan Taus, of Salon One on the Mission Viejo Lake, colored and cut her hair at no charge.

"He told me it was his pleasure to support such outstanding academic achievement for one of the schools in his district," she said.

And while she is wearing a lot of colors now, students were told that rainbow was not a color and that additional colors could be earned in 10 point increments above 900. Culbertson said she felt confident that her students could reach their goal, but little did she know that they would more than triple the 11 point target.

"Moulton grew 34 points; from 889 to 923," she said. "What’s really exciting is that the two focused at-risk subgroups really grew, making huge gains at closing the achievement gap."

She said English Language Learners grew 44 points and students receiving special education grew by 59 points.

"Moulton also had the highest fifth grade science API in the entire district," she said.

So what does Culbertson attribute this growth to? More than a few things:

  • Moulton PTA consistently funds both a highly-qualified reading teacher and science teacher along with field trips and assemblies that are educational and fun.
  • She said parents show up, volunteer and pitch in any way they can demonstrating their support for the school.
  • Moulton students are true scholars who actively engage in their own learning.
  • Moulton teachers care and work as a professional learning community. They strive to provide quality first, targeted instruction and incorporate new technology (hardware and software).
  • Last year, 14 Moulton teachers embarked in CUSD’s first year roll out of the Academic Design and Delivery Initiative and as a result, improved their instructional practice.
  • The support staff at Moulton is top-notch, maintaining a school culture that is friendly, safe and student-centered.
  • Moulton has the most supportive parents and community who value quality education.

The month of October was selected because that’s when Moulton has its popular Boo Blast, now in its 33rd year, which will be on Saturday, Oct. 22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., she said.

Culbertson said everyone is invited to the Boo Blast and is welcome to gawk at her new  ‘do.


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