After a seven-year stint keeping the peace at Mount Rainier Elementary, Principal Jan Reed will be leaving at the end of the school year, capping a 24-year career in Prince George’s County schools.
“I’ll miss all the people,” said Reed, 62, of Greenbelt. “The children, the parents, families and this very amazing teaching staff. This is the strongest teaching staff I’ve ever worked with out of more than 10 schools I’ve worked with over the course of my career. They are so focused on the achievement of the students and their own professional growth. They are so generous in sharing their ideas and strengths to achieve those goals.”
Reed will not be totally leaving the education field as she will be working on the state level soon after leaving Mount Rainier.
“It’s been 60-hour work weeks and in some cases 80 hours and I needed more time with my family,” Reed said. “That’s what’s really driving this. The demands of principalship are increasing.”
When she began in August 2005, Reed said her biggest challenge was to build on the foundation of popular principal Phillip Catania, who left after 17 years as the school’s top administrator to become the new coordinating supervisor of leadership development for the county school system.
“I’ve been here for seven years and people still refer to me as the ‘new principal,’” Reed said with a laugh. “I guess whoever will replace me will be the new, new principal.”
In addition to continuing the school’s focus on being a “peaceful school” — including a peace parade once the students reach at least 150 days of no physical altercations, serious arguments or displays of disrespect during the course of the 180 possible days in the school year — Reed has brought an increased focus to arts and education including writing or co-authoring grant applications that brought in funding for the school to have artists-in-residence.
“She came in after Phil believing in the same philosophy of character education,” said guidance counselor Patricia O’Hara, who has been at the school for more than a decade. “She’s enhanced it. She’s found more ways to recognize teachers. We have our own bulletin board and we receive a lot of positive reinforcement.”
Parents Teachers Organization president Yvette Barnes said Reed always kept parents well-informed of what was going on in the school and on the county school system level.
“I’ll really miss being able to talk honestly about anything with her,” said Barnes, who has been the PTO president for two years. “She’s open to the ideas that we have and having that kind of relationship is really good.”
Shari Flynn, English for Speakers of Other Languages department chair, said Reed also encouraged teachers to take professional development courses to continue enhancing their training.
“She’s done a great job here,” said Flynn, an eight-year veteran at the school. “I like how she’s refocused us on integrating the arts into our education and encouraged a lot of artists in residency to come here. A lot of us have found ways to work arts into our instruction, which has helped get kids more engaged about what they’re learning.”
While departing, Reed still wants to make sure she’s leaving the school in good hands.
“When I came on board in addition to a district screening, I went through a community screening where teachers, support staff and parents were given an opportunity to interview the candidates and give the school board input on which candidate they thought would provide the best fit for the community,” Reed said. “Currently our parents are filling out an online survey and are also giving their written input to county schools and the superintendent will choose the next principal. My hope is to see a collaborative leader who will enjoy the diversity and creative artistry that is so key to the Mount Rainier community.”
County schools spokesman Briant Coleman said the Mount Rainier community would be given the opportunity to provide input on Reed’s successor before the position is filled.