In honor of AP Week, we spoke with Lamark Holley, an assistant principal of Southampton Middle School in Bel Air, MD, about his longtime career in education and the difference he makes in his school community.
How did you get into education and school leadership, in particular?
Like all kids, I started off going to school at a young age, but for me, school continued after I came home. My mother was a teacher for 36 1/2 years. My father was a teacher for 39 years. I have one sibling who is in her 30th year of teaching. Education is just sort of what we did in my family.
I always thought I would teach high school. I wanted to become a football coach so I thought by teaching and coaching at the high school level, that would get me in the right direction. But no good high school opportunities were available. There was a middle school opening, and I had a new son, and having a steady job and income were important. I was looking at education as more of a short-term solution, but I found myself very comfortable teaching. I was doing something that I was good at based on the feedback from students, families, community members, teachers, and administrators. That put me onto this path to administration. I’ve been one for more than 20 years now.
Why have you spent most of your career in middle school?
The reality is that kids won’t do well in high school unless they have good, solid foundations in middle school. They’re sort of discovering themselves and they’re very impressionable. It’s a bit like clay that can still be molded to set them up for success that will carry them through high school and beyond.
Do you think people understand and respect the role of assistant principals in schools?
The outside world does sometimes undervalue the assistant principalship. I laugh all the time at my friends outside of education who think that when school is out, I’m on vacation until we open again in the fall. There’s no understanding that materials have to be ordered, trainings have to happen, schedules have to be created, and so much more.
I like to say that we roll up our sleeves and do what needs to be done to make sure the principal’s vision and mission are executed. One thing I like is that that we’re not bound by the need to deliver high-quality instruction for 50 or 60 minutes at a time. I’m able to pull a child aside and take the time to get to know them as an individual. On any given day, my job involves building relationships, holding students as well as teachers accountable, and bridging gaps between the schoolhouse and the community.
Have you thought about becoming a principal?
I take great pride in being a principal’s right-hand man. When they need to take a day off, or they need to take a vacation or be out of the school for any reason, they need to know that the school is going to be OK in their absence.
But having said that, I am at the stage of my career where the principalship is knocking. I haven’t always thought about pursuing it because I take such pride in being able to interact closely with students every day, and that’s where my passion is. But I was selected to participate in our district’s principal academy. I appreciate that my colleagues see my potential, so I’m open to the idea.
Have an assistant principal you’d like to celebrate during Assistant Principals Week, April 3-7? Send them an e-card.