She may be a school principal, but at a distance, Tanya Green is hard to pick out from the students at Friendship Preparatory Academy at Calverton.

“I wear a school uniform. I do not walk around with 10- inch heels or Calvin Klein suits. I want my staff and students to say ‘My principal is approachable. She looks like me.’” Green told the AFRO recently.

It is all part of what Green calls servant leadership to enhance at-risk students’ education and empower her staff at the school developed to serve Baltimore students who have been labeled disadvantaged and at risk as troublesome students.

After four years, her approach has not gone unnoticed. On Aug. 22 Green was recognized by the White House as a “Champion of Change,” along with 11 other educators whose efforts at improving the quality of education in schools are drawing national attention.

“It feels very humbling to be honored as a ‘Champion of Change.’ It was shocking,” Green said. “I was actually surprised because I did not reinvent the wheel. I did not think outside the box. I have done what I was supposed to do and that is giving the students what is owed to them. I am very humbled,”

As a former at-risk student in the Baltimore County Public School System, Green has insight on the steps required to assist disadvantaged students in day-to-day tasks. Green excelled in school from elementary to sixth grade. In the seventh grade, however, she lost focus.

Making conscious decisions to be disruptive, Green continued her downward spiral. Although she was a difficult student, being suspended weekly, she passed her classes.

“I was very intelligent, but no one asked. No one cared. No one invested in me. It was not until tenth grade when the coach of the track team saw me run and told me I was pretty good. I had not heard a compliment in years. I joined the track team because someone gave me a compliment. My behavior turned around. I went on to college and received two degrees in Pre-med biology,” explained Green. “I feel I have been prepared to come in the school and help the neediest child. I can speak from my personal experience. I tell the children and parents about my behavior as a child. I let parents know instead of fussing with the child, give him or her compliment.”

Friendship Preparatory Academy at Calverton, located in Baltimore City, is a charter school responsible for preparing disadvantaged students for higher learning. As part of Baltimore City Public School System’s reform efforts, Friendship Prep accepts students from pre-kindergarten to 8th grade, regardless of neighborhood.

“The main reason for a lot of our success is that we improved in what we already established. We improved culture, suspensions are low, and we are putting programs in place so the students want to be here. We have debate, track, knitting, crochet, cheerleading, book club, and girls and boys basketball. We are making lessons more engaging and creating meaningful activities. Like I said before, we did not reinvent the wheel. We did not think outside the box. We want to get smarter for the kids and we are doing that with Baltimore City Public School and Friendship charter schools.”

Green, who holds an education doctorate, believes the best way to empower is to service. As principal, Green serves school lunch, answers phones, paints desks, helps teachers teach, and gives aid with lesson plans.

“I am not the expert. The teachers are the experts. A principal is nobody without everyone else. I allow them my staff to be leaders. The secretary and custodian are leaders. I empower them to lead. I should be able to humble myself to follow.”
Sonja Brookins Santelises, chief academic officer of BCPS, works closely with the compassionate principal. “School leaders like Tanya Green—with a vision for and commitment to student success, and the dedication to support students tirelessly as they strive to achieve it—are absolutely essential to our work to transform Baltimore’s public schools,” the CAO explained. “Dr. Green is very much a champion—one of many across the district and in our schools—and richly deserves the recognition from the White House for her work to bring positive change to a school that historically has experienced so many challenges.

On behalf of City Schools, I congratulate her and her school community and look forward to their continued progress.”

“I am most proud of the changes we made to change the school. We did the work with the students in the community and we welcomed in parents and students, who knocked on the door. Our responsibility is to take funds and resources and put good plans and strategies in place to ensure all the children succeed; not some of the children,” said Green.

Brittany Buchanan

Special to the AFRO