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NEW PRINCIPAL SPOTLIGHT: Veleka Gray, Riverbend Elementary

Posted Date: 05/01/2024

NEW PRINCIPAL SPOTLIGHT: Veleka Gray, Riverbend Elementary

Newly appointed Riverbend Elementary Principal Veleka Gray is a lot like the school she is now leading.

As Gray put it, Riverbend Elementary, located off the Fifth Street exit off Interstate 20, is hidden until you make a right turn past the West Monroe Community Center.

“Then when they drive up, they’re like, ‘Oh wow, this is a beautiful school,’” Gray said. “When you walk inside Riverbend Elementary School, you’re not just entering a school – you’re entering a caring and supportive community where everyone is valued, respected, and empowered to reach their full potential.

“We have a culture built around making sure all of our students succeed. We are working really hard at growing all students.  There are some great things going on at Riverbend and greatness is happening here – just wait and see.”

Gray always knew she wanted to be a teacher, but other roles in education were hidden from her mind, but not others after observing her in the classroom.

After graduating from Grambling State University, Gray taught first grade at Swayze Elementary for 8 years. The opportunity then presented itself for Gray to become Swayze’s Reading Interventionist.

“With two members of the instructional team coming in, they noticed something in me that I didn’t see in myself,” Gray said. “My principal at the time approached me with the idea of becoming the Reading Interventionist, and I was like, ‘But I love first grade.’

“She said, ‘I know you love first grade, but I think this would be a great opportunity for you as well. If you don’t like it, I’ll put you back in first grade the next year.’”

Gray started her new position and immediately fell in love with it. In turn, it opened more doors to positions she never saw herself in like Title I Reading and Math Coordinator for Swayze and Richwood Middle.

And that is how she first stepped foot into the hallways of Riverbend Elementary as Title I Reading and Math Coordinator.

Gray spent her entire education career in Title I schools, and she is a product of Ouachita Parish. She attended Shady Grove Elementary, Ouachita Junior High and Ouachita Parish High School. To her, Riverbend was like going home.

“Initially, it brought a mix of emotions, but over time I came to see the school as a second home,” Gray said. “It felt like family. I really felt like we were close. I worked really closely with the teachers and administration, so it was like a big family.”

Gray spent the past couple of years in administration as Interim Assistant Principal and Curriculum Coordinator at Riverbend, until the ultimate opportunity presented itself – principal. After her predecessor took a sudden leave close to the beginning of this school year, Gray sprang into action trying to provide the best for her students, teachers and the community as a whole.

“I have worked to strengthen our partnership with the Community Center,” Gray said. “When they have events, I make an effort to attend and welcome new members to the community. I would like to go into the community before school starts even with my teachers to take a bus tour and let them see where our kids come from.”

One of Gray’s favorite places on campus is right outside the main entrance where the school buses drop the students off in the morning.

“Right when they get off the bus, you should see how they hug me and love on me,” Gray said. “I just try to let everybody see that I am a caring person. I try to smile as much as I can and let them know I’m here. I’ve got your back. So, I think that, among other reasons, reminds me of my purpose, and I look forward to making an even bigger impact at Riverbend Elementary School.”


August 2023-Present: Interim Principal, Riverbend Elementary

August 2022-August 2023: Curriculum Coordinator, Riverbend Elementary

August 2021-May 2022: Interim Assistant Principal, Riverbend Elementary

August 2014-August 2021: Title I Reading & Math Coordinator, Swayze Elementary, Riverbend Elementary, Richwood Middle School

August 2007-August 2014: Reading Interventionist, Swayze Elementary

August 1999-August 2007: First Grade Teacher, Swayze Elementary