In the Spotlight: Passion is the Priority
Michael J. Perkins Elementary
- Years as a principal: 6
- 2018 NAESP National Distinguished Principal®
- Dillard University, Bachelor of Arts Degree, Elementary Education
- Lesley University, Masters in Educational Administration
- Grade span: Pre-K–5
- 88 percent minority enrollment
- 12 percent Scholar With Ed plan
- 27 percent English-language learners
- 84 percent economically challenged scholars
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Introducing himself to his fellow 2018 NAESP National Distinguished Principals®, Craig Martin wanted more than anything else to share his passion for the principalship. At South Boston’s Michael J. Perkins Elementary, the challenges his students face are the ones he has to address as school leader. “We’re going to grow—together—beyond anything that comes against us,” he says.
On managing the challenges of poverty and trauma
Each scholar we serve joins us with cultural, intellectual, social, and emotional capital we can engage; their circumstance should never dictate our level of service or care toward them. We use the tools, resources, and networks we have to create access and opportunity for every scholar to thrive within the realm of their giftedness. Additionally, our staff members collectively have participated in more than 100 hours of professional development in trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive practices, self-care, and mindfulness, and [we] created classroom “safe spaces” that encourage student self-efficacy in managing their own emotional or behavioral episodes.
On ensuring family engagement in a commuter school
We make a conscious decision not to allow physical space to serve as a barrier to connection. We use social media and digital tools such as Twitter, Flipgrid, and Google Hangout as a bridge to the real-time gap. During our site council meetings, I host Google Hangouts live so that parents, students, community partners, and/or staff members can participate virtually in our conversations and decision-making. Additionally, our parents and guardians receive an electronic news blast from me biweekly.
On the meaning of being a principal
The role of the principal is to ignite passions rooted in purpose, principles, and possibility. Principals serve as the chief agents of change in our school communities. Guided by the lens of equity, cultural responsiveness, inclusivity, and equality, we are called to position the right staff members in front of our youth; embody and promote our core values and vision; galvanize family and community partners who are willing to invest time, talent, and treasure in that vision; and educate, elevate, and empower each young person to their greatest potential.
On principals’ greatest challenge
The greatest challenge principals face in 21st century America is remaining vibrant and visionary when the challenges of race, gender, class, and economic status meet us at the door each day. Many of our scholars enter our spaces disenfranchised by trauma, homelessness, divorce, substance abuse, domestic abuse, and more. And to a certain degree, so do many of the parents and staff members we serve, as well.
On the most rewarding part of his job
The most rewarding part of my job is having those aha! moments with students and staff. Self-discovery is so powerful—especially when someone strongly questions whether they have the grit to persevere through the challenge of learning something new.
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