by Lisa Tome
Nikole MacDowell is counting the days.
MacDowell, the new principal at Leeds Elementary School, is ready for the staff and students to return from summer vacation.
After three years as principal at North East Elementary, she has settled in at Leeds. Prior to that, she taught in Baltimore City and at Gilpin Manor. She has also worked as an assistant principal at Bay View and Cecil Manor elementary schools.
Landing at Leeds means that MacDowell is working at her first non Title I (large number of free and reduced meals) school. "Both (Title I and non Title I) have advantages and disadvantages. People don't realize the different resources that come with Title I," said MacDowell.
She is also adjusting to a building in a more rural setting and preparing for a student population of about 400 - that is about 100 students less than she led at North East.
"I am so excited for the children to come back," said MacDowell. "I love what I do. This is the greatest job. I am so excited to be in a new building and to meet the staff. I think change is very exciting," she said. She is anxious for the 34 teachers and 20 support staff to arrive in the coming days. "It's natural to get nervous. There's the human aspect of it. But I am anxious to meet the staff, the families and the students. I am excited to meet everyone at the back to school social (August 20)," she said.
MacDowell took over for Alan Loman at Leeds on July 1. "The head custodian and lead secretary are your best friends. They have insights and they know about the community," she said. "Diane (Sizemore), lead secretary, knows the community and knows our families. She's such a support," said MacDowell.
The new principal isn't planning to make sweeping changes. She said that Loman "paved the way" for success at Leeds. "I need to take the time to learn Leeds and our families. The one thing that will be new this year is that all the elementary schools will have PBIS (behavior incentives). I kicked that off at North East and Cecil Manor. I think the children will take that and run with it," she said.
MacDowell said she will miss North East Elementary, especially since that was the first school where she was a principal.
"I miss everywhere I leave. You make relationships with people but you keep in touch. I got ideas and strategies from North East. I learned what to do and what not to do as well," she said.
School starts August 21 for children in grades 1-5. Those in Pre-K and kindergarten starts August 26.
"There is not one day in any school building that is the same as yesterday," said MacDowell.
She said when she was studying education, she had an instructor tell her to "get flexible or get out".
"Your day is defined by the 400, 500, or 600 children who walk through that door. That's the beauty of it," she said.