It Turns Out Being a Good Principal Means Being a Good Talent Scout
For 10 years—until the day Jammal hired Owens to teach as a first-year corps member—he never lost touch with his former student, whom he was certain had a huge contribution to make to her community. He advised her throughout her four years of college, then hired her as a math tutor and later a temp at Lakeland, then encouraged her to apply to the corps. Then he rallied a group of people (including a Lakeland instructional coach who was working on institute staff) to keep Owens going during a brutally hard stretch at institute in Philadelphia while her baby son, Jamari, was back in Baltimore.
These days, Jammal is grooming Owens to reach a new goal. She wants to lead a Baltimore City school one day—one “with my own curriculum and a culture that urban kids like me can relate to,” Owens says. Her chances look good. In his seven years at Lakeland, Jammal has spun off from his faculty five principals, three assistant principals, and three instructional coaches.
It’s the same entrepreneurial bent that’s caused Jammal to bring 45 external partners and about $1 million a year in additional funding to Lakeland, a community school that serves 40 percent more pupils since Jammal took charge, and has moved from the bottom third in academic performance among Baltimore City schools to the top 25 percent. Those external partners range from volunteers who bring in therapeutic pets, to corporate sponsors who help support other talent pipelines (Lakeland is a “professional development” school for education and science students from local colleges Loyola University Maryland and UMBC).
Jammal says, “There are all kinds of people you need on your staff besides teachers: clinicians, custodial members, enrichment leaders.” That’s how he first found Edson Chavez (Baltimore ’14), who now teaches middle school life science at Lakeland.
Chavez was the first male Latino teacher Jammal was able to hire. A first-generation college student who was president of his college Hispanic-Latino student union, Chavez got a degree from UMBC in environmental science and thought he’d work in research. But when his grant ran out, he came to Lakeland as a temp, at first working with students learning English as a second language. One day Jammal asked him, “Have you thought about being a teacher?” Jammal had Chavez shadow teachers of several subjects; he sent him to trainings and a national conference of science teachers that electrified him.
Chavez applied to the corps and is now in his fourth year at Lakeland, his third as a teacher. Last year his students, all Latino young men, tied for first place in a citywide competition to prototype a nitrogen-reducing device for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. Now Chavez is excited about how Lakeland is collaborating with the city of Baltimore to build a science-and-arts center for students and community members to do weekend and evening projects. “Any kind of way I can get my students to buy into science,” he says, “I’m excited about.”
About the Author
Susan Brenna joined One Day in 2014 as its editor-in-chief. As a writer and editor, her reporting on education has appeared in numerous publications, including New York magazine. She has worked in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Georgia, and Maryland. She lives in Brooklyn. Email Susan Brenna.