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Marco French of Caddo Parish Surprised with $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Creating Culture of Excellence for Educators and Students

Queensborough Leadership Academy chancellor invests in teacher talent, reaps benefits of student learning

March 15, 2022

Santa Monica, Calif., — By putting the needs of staff and students front and center, Chancellor Marco French has transformed academic performance at Queensborough Leadership Academy and created a nurturing environment for all to thrive. Yet today, French was the focus of an all-school assembly where he was surprised with a national Milken Educator Award. The recognition comes with a $25,000 cash prize that French can use however he chooses. 

Milken Educator Awards Founder Lowell Milken was joined by Louisiana Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley to present French with the prestigious honor before cheering students, appreciative colleagues, state and local dignitaries, and media. In addition to today's fanfare, French will join a national network of more than 2,800 Milken Educator Award recipients dedicated to strengthening K-12 education. 

French is among more than 60 educators across the country who will receive the Award during the 2021-22 season. The last recipient in Caddo Parish was awarded in 2015. 

"Chancellor Marco French has achieved significant success by aligning every effort to developing, motivating and retaining effective educators," said Lowell Milken. "Marco unifies his staff under a common vision for excellence and, in so doing, creates a collaborative, vibrant culture for all to excel." 

French leads the academy's implementation of the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement – a signature initiative of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET). Master and mentor teachers work with French and other administrators to set goals, guide regular job-embedded professional learning, coach educators in classrooms and leverage the faculty’s talents to drive student growth. 

"As a former teacher, content coach, and instructional coordinator, Marco French understands learning and leadership from many angles," said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley. "These experiences have clearly informed his work as principal; he is committed to the success of the Queensborough Leadership Academy community, where he continues to motivate students and staff and inspire the next generation of leaders." 

Hailed as the "Oscars of Teaching," Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues and communities. The Awards are not designated for lifetime achievement. Recipients are heralded while early to mid-career for what they have achieved — and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities inherent in the Award.

French is the third Milken Educator Award recipient this season. Jay Weisman, a math and social studies at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans, was presented with the Award this morning. Laura Laiche, a third grade teacher at Slaughter Elementary School in East Feliciana Parish, earned the Award yesterday. 

More About Marco French

Building Relationships: Every morning, whether in sun, rain, sleet or snow, Chancellor French – known at school as "The Bowtie Principal" – greets students as they enter the campus. During the holidays, he dons a Santa Claus costume and hands out small gifts as pupils arrive. The rest of the day French is rarely in his office; instead, he's in the trenches with teachers in their classrooms, observing lessons, modeling instructional strategies and working with small groups of students. Every decision French makes keeps students' needs front and center. When he realized that many students lacked warm outerwear as they waited for the bus or walked to school, French partnered with Operation Warm and got a coat for every student. 

Raising Student Achievement: French has been instrumental in transforming multiple underperforming campuses into state and nationally recognized schools. Fully invested in increasing student achievement and developing educator expertise, French has a "whatever it takes" attitude that has earned him respect in the building and throughout Caddo Parish. Queensborough earned an A in 2019 for student progress and was named an Outstanding School in Northwest Louisiana for top growth in ELA and math. In 2018-19, Queensborough students outperformed the district and state for overall growth, as well as for performance of students of color, those who are economically disadvantaged, and students with disabilities. 

Instructional Leadership: French has embraced the TAP System's principles of continuous learning and leadership development through intensive, curriculum-dependent coaching. A former teacher, content coach and instructional coordinator, French leads weekly instructional team leadership meetings with Queensborough's administrators, counselors, and master and mentor teachers to build the leadership needed to support teachers through weekly, job-embedded cluster meetings and one-on-one coaching. He works with teachers and the leadership team to analyze student achievement and qualitative teacher data throughout the year to make instructional adjustments. When COVID-19 closed the building in spring 2020, French quickly transitioned his instructional leadership team meetings to a virtual platform so the group could quickly help teachers adapt their curriculum materials and lessons to online learning. He is working to ensure that 100% of Queensborough’s teachers have Apple certification so students have access to the same opportunities with technology as their peers. 

District Impact: A leader in the district, French presents frequently for Caddo Parish teachers and principals on topics like classroom management systems, data-driven decision-making, individualized support for struggling students, and hands-on math strategies. When Louisiana rolled out tools for professional learning planning and curriculum implementation, French invited state and district leaders to visit so they could see how the tools worked in practice. In fall 2019, he hosted leaders from Tennessee who were interested in implementing high-quality curriculum in an impactful way. 

Strengthening Community: French prioritizes building a strong school community. He organizes bowling parties and scavenger hunts, as well as workshops for parents to learn how to support their scholars at home. Outside of school, he runs tutoring programs and is actively involved in outreach ministries through his church and local social organizations.

Education: French earned a bachelor's in elementary education from Grambling State University in 2009 and a master's in educational leadership from Arkansas State University in 2015.

More About the Milken Educator Awards: "The future belongs to the educated."

Along with the financial prize, Milken Educator Award recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals and specialists. The network serves as a rich resource for fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others dedicated to excellence in education.

  • The honorees will also attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to increase their impact on K-12 education. In addition, they will learn about how to become involved in the Milken Friends Forever (MFFs) mentoring program, in which freshman Milken Educators receive personalized coaching and support from a Milken Educator veteran on ways to elevate their instructional practice and take an active role in educational leadership, policy and practice.
  • Over the years, more than $140 million in funding, including $70 million for the individual cash awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients' careers. 
  • Veteran Milken Educators frequently go on to serve in leadership roles at state, national and international levels. 
  • "We find you. You don't find us!" Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Awards initiative has no formal nomination or application process. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by blue ribbon panels in each state. The most exceptional candidates are recommended for the award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation. 
  • The $25,000 cash award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. For instance, some have spent the funds on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.  

Oprah, a longtime education advocate, shared her congratulations to this year's recipients in a video message thanking "the most incredible educators around the country" and acknowledging her deep appreciation for the "tireless work" they do.

To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events or to watch the award events unfold, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook (@MilkenEducatorAwards), Twitter (@Milken), YouTube (/MilkenAward), Instagram (MilkenFamilyFdn), and TikTok (@MilkenAward).  

For more information, visit MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772.

About the Milken Educator Awards
The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. The awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. The initiative was created by the Milken Family Foundation, which celebrates 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at MFF.org.

MEDIA CONTACT
Jana Rausch, (310) 435-9259 (cell), jrausch@mff.org