Can you describe your previous experience working in schools?
This is my 19th year in education. I started teaching at a local community college teaching accounting and business classes the week before 9/11. During this time, I was teaching at night and working as a full-time accountant during the day. As an accounting major, I always saw myself being an accountant. However, it wasn’t too long before I saw myself looking more forward to teaching night classes than my day job as an accountant. From that experience forward, I knew I wanted to be an educator.
I started my K-12 journey at a school with about 300 7th through 12th grade. I started as a business teacher and taught business for the next six years. My next experience was as an Advisor, which is kind of like a Crew leader. The major difference between being an Advisor and leading Crew is that all of the academics were taught through Crew. I spent a total of about 12 years in the classroom before I moved over into school leadership. I spent one year as an assistant principal in a traditional high school before moving to be the principal of a middle school charter school.
What attracted you to applying for the Capital City Middle School Principal position?
For me, home has always been where my family is and where I spent the first 18 years of my life–Baltimore. Since graduating high school in Baltimore, I have lived in the Rhode Island and Massachusetts areas. Last year, I made the decision to move back home. My original thought was to move back to Baltimore, but there weren’t any charter school options and I see myself as a charter school educator. I then expanded my search after my wife encouraged me to look into DC.
When I started looking into DC, Capital City was the first school I saw. As I got to look around the website and videos, I started seeing myself in the school. I also learned a little more about EL Education, which felt familiar to me since it is close to the model I used as an Advisor. After seeing Principal Cox on videos engaging with students and moving through the hallways, I saw similarities to my style and was able to fully see myself at Capital City.
I really got hooked on the school after my visit. The campus is beautiful, but I most enjoyed seeing and interacting with students. I was drawn to the way that students learn here and teachers teach. I don’t see students lined up in rows, I see students being active and teachers being proximal. Ten minutes ago, I saw students using manipulatives, having conversations with each other, and making sense of the learning. That was really cool. I don’t know how you visit the school and not love it. It ended up being the only school I applied to.
What have you learned so far in your first few weeks as principal?
I’ve been in a lot of schools where I got to facilitate PD and have visited a lot of schools, but I’ve never been in a school like this. We had a staff meeting a couple of weeks ago with a potluck and I got there late because I had a meeting. When I walked in, there was music playing, people in conversations, and a lot of joy. I’ve learned how tight the staff is — everyone is Crew.
I’ve also learned that students love each other abundantly. Students always want to stop in the hallways to talk to each other, but we have to keep them moving. I am still learning so much about Capital City. Right now, I am focusing on the schedule and learning some of the nuances of the school.
What excites you about the EL Education model? What has been your impression so far?
The thing that I appreciate the most about the EL model is that it all starts with Crew. Students learn best when they feel like they belong and there’s a strong sense of community. That seems to be front and center in the EL model.
Another aspect about EL that I really appreciate is that students get to make sense of their learning with classmates; learning is not just being done to them, but they get a chance to make sense of it. About 30 minutes ago I saw a student standing outside with a computer leading check-ins who then went in and led an activity. I love seeing students take the lead in their learning.
What are some items you want to prioritize during your first year as principal?
The first thing I want to prioritize is creating a vision for our campus. While our school has a mission statement, crafting an articulated vision helps us to have a realistic understanding of where we are and a path towards where we want to be. At the end of the school year, we will be able to assess what progress we made towards actualizing our vision and know what changes we might need to make to get closer. I am excited about working with students, staff, and families to create our collaborative vision.
Another thing I’m focused on is our school culture. The pandemic hit all of us hard, and we lost a lot beyond learning and learner habits. I am really trying to lead conversations and create action steps to get back to the basics and rebuild our culture on a strong foundation of our values and vision. One component of this is another area of focus for me–refining and sharpening some of our practices and procedures.
How are you planning to foster relationships with families, students, and staff?
When I interviewed here I met a group of families and said, “Hey listen, I’m going to be reaching out to you. You are your child’s first teacher and we’re going to need your wisdom to teach your child.” I really value my family relationships. After meeting with some families in August, I’m really looking forward to continuing to engage families about our school, how we're going to educate their child, and how they can best support at home.
With students, I want to be in the classrooms and hallways as much as possible. Being in the spaces where students spend the most time lends itself naturally to having conversations with students.
I am building relationships with staff through one on one and team meetings. I want to know them not only as teachers and educators, but as people as well. I want to build relationships with them all.
Engaging families, students, and staff are essential to actualizing our vision and cultivating a sense of belonging for all of our community members.
Do you have anything fun to add about yourself that you think our community might like to know?
I don’t think the community is going to like hearing about this because I’m sure there’s a lot of Washington Commanders fans here, but I’m a huge Buffalo Bills fan. I was up late cheering my team on for their first win. When the Bills are winning, I might start wearing Bills jerseys to school.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I’ll just say that my journey as a K-12 student really shapes the educator I am today. There were teachers that really supported me and helped prepare me for college and life beyond graduation. There were also teachers who didn’t support me as much.
I think about the adults who didn’t check on me when I needed an adult to check in on me because I didn’t feel safe going to and from school. I navigated a lot growing up in West Baltimore, which is not the safest community.All of those experiences live in me and significantly shape how I lead the campus and build relationships with staff and students.
Student safety is very critical to me. That our students feel safe and cared for, not just physically but emotionally, is crucial to me. It’s often the lens I look through. Safety and student learning is something I’m really focused on.