Retired principal champions education for all

Dr. Sandra McCalla is unstoppable in her quest to make education accessible to everyone.

She grew up surrounded by lovers of learning, so it was more a question of what she would teach rather than whether she would teach. Her parents, Earl Gray and Dorothy Adams McCalla, were also lifelong learners. Dorothy instilled a love of books in Dr. McCalla and her two sisters, Charlotte and Nelda, early on with weekly visits to story hour at Shreve Memorial Library in downtown Shreveport.

“Education is in my DNA,” Dr. McCalla says. “My mom went to Louisiana Normal School – now it’s Northwestern State University. Our job was to come home and start doing our homework. In the evening, Mama was studying for her certification and Daddy was always studying something.”

Dr. Sandra McCalla enjoys visiting schools and talking to educators, including now-retired Captain Shreve High School Principal Ginger Gustavson (second from left) and University Elementary School teachers Tina Burton, Jeannie Day Cantrell and Julie Miller Savage. Cantrell and Savage are Captain Shreve alumni.

In 2005, Dr. McCalla established the Earl Gray and Dorothy Adams McCalla Endowed Scholarship in Education at LSUS. The endowment provides scholarships pursuing a master of education degree or graduate certification, with an emphasis on secondary education or gifted certification at the secondary level.

Earl dropped out of school after eighth grade to work, primarily in construction. He worked for major contractors as a master carpenter until he formed his own company. He valued education and supported his daughters’ plans for college.

“I can remember when he worked seven days a week and we never saw him,” Dr. McCalla says. “He became a master carpenter, and he was proud of that.”

Dr. Sandra McCalla’s extended family included many educators

In what little free time he had, Earl pursued numerous hobbies, including photography and ham radio.

“He could patch a phone call through from parents here to their son in Vietnam, and he did that lot during the war,” Dr. McCalla says.

Earl and Dorothy put Dr. McCalla and her sisters through college. Dr. McCalla set her sights on a degree from NSU but chose a major she could complete in as little time as possible to keep the cost to a minimum.

“I was a math major, and I earned a bachelor’s degree in three years and three summers,” she recalls.

After graduating in 1960, she started teaching math at Oak Terrace Junior High in Shreveport before moving to Captain Shreve High School. She was a teacher, math coordinator and assistant principal at Captain Shreve in the 1970s.

In 1979, she became the first female high school principal in Caddo Parish when the Caddo Parish School Board promoted her to principal at Captain Shreve.

Dr. McCalla actually served as the Captain Shreve principal twice. She left the Caddo school system to take a leadership position at Northwestern State University for six years. During that time she also taught math at LSUS as an adjunct faculty member and worked as an educational industry specialist for IBM. She returned to the principal’s job at Captain Shreve in 1994 and remained there until her retirement in 2016.

She cherishes the connections to her Captain Shreve family, attending fundraisers, football games and alumni events. She brags about former students in person and on social media. She also works behind the scenes to promote careers in education and professional development for educators.

“Because of the value my parents placed on education, I was able to achieve so much,” Dr. McCalla says.