Philadelphia Citizen: Wonder Woman to the Principal’s Office

Thanks to help from the Philadelphia Schools Partnership, the School District is counting on a dynamo leader to turn around a struggling elementary school. But does the District have enough dynamos to fix all its broken schools?

At 6 AM on a recent Tuesday morning—before coffee, before her two kids awoke, before she’d even considered what to wear to work that day—Gianeen Powell had a new job. The principal of James G. Blaine Elementary School in Strawberry Mansion, Powell’s day started, as it started and ended every day, with a quick check of her email. That’s when she learned that her building engineer was going to be out because of a death in the family. Powell sent him a condolence note, then considered the new complication to her day. The school district would send over another engineer, as needed. But no one else among Powell’s small, stretched staff could ensure the building was open on time, the tables were set for lunch, the lights were on—all parts of his job. She would need to oversee his work, in addition to all the other roles she performs as principal: school nurse three days a week; guidance counselor three days a week; teacher instructor; class evaluator; parent communicator; community liaison; grant writer; student; cheerleader.

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