Where did you work before joining the Riverside administrative team?
I was at Brogden Middle school. I was the coordinator of the Innovative Partnership Grant for about 3 months. Before that I was a principal intern at Oak Grove Elementary school
Why did you decide to work here?
A few reasons. One, Dr. Wood-Weeks as a leader. She has a track record for turning schools around and developing a school culture that is academic based. She was also recommended by Dr. Logan, my principal when I was a social studies teacher.
What are your first impressions of our school?
I looked at the school as a diamond in the rough. Riverside has all of the components necessary to be a remarkable school. It’s just putting things in the right place. Dr. Wood-Weeks said something this morning. She said “it’s not just about having the right people on the bus, it’s making sure they’re in the right seat. Because you can have like an all-star team but if they’re all not put in the right position or in the right place at the right time they’ re not gonna be as effective as they could be.”
And how do you plan to do that here?
My role here is less of an innovator. My role here is more of a facilitator. I take what my principal needs done and do it.
What is your favorite thing about working at Riverside?
I love the notion that every day builds on the next. Nothing here is separate from the end goal. From the first day of school to today, all of this is in a continuum. Everything is connected. It doesn’t matter if your day was good or bad, it’s just how you put yourself in a position to be successful the next day.
What is the hardest aspect of the job?
Removing myself- having an idea on how I would like things to go, how I would like students to be and every day throwing it in the trash before I come in the building. You have to be okay with allowing the environment to manifest success. If you have an idea of success coming into the building, you only look for one type of result. When you don’t have an idea of success, you allow success to be dictated by the things that happen in the school. So really removing myself is very difficult.
I’ve heard that you’re passionate about restorative practices. How did that passion develop?
It’s personal. At 17, I knew I wouldn’t have to pay for college. I knew that my life was gonna be really really really good for the next couple of years because I had done enough work to make sure that from 17 on my life wouldn’t be a problem.
But between the ages of 9 and 14, I was a very lost child. I’m passionate about restorative practices because if I had not had educators and adults in my life that were more restorative than punitive I would not be here. I would not have had the opportunity to earn a track scholarship in short hurdles or to be one of the top scholars in my class.
All of those things came because I was given the opportunity to figure it out. I was okay with success looking a way I never thought it could look. Most of the people in my life up until I moved to New York had an idea on what a student should look like, what a boy should be, and how I should talk. I was very hyper so I learned better when I was tapping or jumping. I was just seen as the kid who was out of control.
“I’m restorative because I was given the opportunity to find myself”
They urged my mother to put me on medicine and that definitely would have changed my life because, like, I’m pretty dope. I like the way I am. But imagine if my brain’s chemistry was altered by a medicine when I was in fourth grade. Then will I have the ability to articulate my critical thinking skills? Everything would have been completely different because medicine for children who are hyper changes the chemistry in their brains so even when they are off the medicine and they are adults, the rewiring is done. I’m restorative because I was given the opportunity to find myself.
How do you plan to act on your passion for restorative practices at Riverside?
It’s difficult because restoration takes time. Human beings are social animals. It takes a lot of time to change the way students are incentivized, the way they communicate, and the way they see education. It’s difficult to restore when you don’t have time.
We don’t have time. We don’t have the time it takes to convince a child that the way they see the world is incorrect or the way they see the world is through a very narrow perspective. I have to learn the nonverbal language that students communicate with. At this age students are more inclined to communicate through behavior, not verbally, not words.
[Students] are not gonna tell you how they feel or what they want or how they need things to go or how they can feel more supported. Most of our students don’t have the emotional intelligence, and they also have pride that prevents them from being vulnerable. So I plan to be restorative by learning the nonverbal language by which they communicate.
Learning their language allows me to come back to the table with an understanding of what they are trying to communicate versus thinking they just want to be deviant or they want to be an anarchist and destroy everything. Even in those moments, they are communicating. I need to learn that language.
Last year, The Pirates’ Hook did an investigative project about Riverside’s bathrooms. As the head of infrastructure, how do you plan to address this disrepair?
The stall partitions are being re-nailed back to the ground. I plan to first work on the hardware issues. I want to make sure all of our toilets flush. And then start to develop different ways of ensuring our bathrooms are safer.
For example, during transitions we are looking to have teachers at the bathrooms making sure students are not in the bathrooms later into the passing bell, having the opportunity to grafiti or rip things off the walls. Surveillance of the bathroom is also a priority. The entrances are going to be closely guarded as well as making sure the hardware issues don’t prolong. So when we have a toilet that’s not working, instead of allowing it to not work for three weeks, doing emergency orders to have it done overnight.
How does student safety play into your role in infrastructure?
Student safety at Riverside is a touchy topic because there are some students who feel liberty is the key to happiness and other kids who take liberty as an opportunity to destroy what we try to develop. So when looking at infrastructure and school safety, we must establish a safe perimeter for our students while giving the illusion of freedom. We have to make sure students are safe and we know everything that is happening while allowing our students to focus on their academics.
When you think of your hopes for Riverside, what is your most ambitious dream?
To materialize a plan that Dr. Wood-Weeks has for us.