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Inside the life of a high school principal

Illustration of a high school corridor
Photo: CandO Designs / Getty Images

Inside the life of a high school principal

On this episode of School’s In, Amika Guillaume shares her daily routine and offers some back-to-school inspiration.

Being a principal can look like a thankless job: You fire people, you take all the criticism and you spend less time with the kids. But schools need great leaders. 

Amika Guillaume is the principal of East Palo Alto Academy, a charter high school that’s achieved a 95 percent graduation rate—with ninth-graders who generally come in reading at the fourth-grade level. 

“If we play our cards right, and we do everything that this school has set out to do for you,” she tells them, “then you will be the first in your family to graduate from university.” 

On this episode of School’s In, Guillaume joins GSE Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope to explain East Palo Alto’s approach, share her day-to-day routine and provide some back-to-school inspiration.

Guillaume works from 8am to 6pm, then puts in another three to five hours after her children go to bed. The daughter of immigrants, Guillaume has a personal connection to the work.

“I still have nightmares that they took away my graduation diploma because ‘you weren’t supposed to be here,’” she said. “I see myself through this journey. And I think about how it was such a miracle that I made it through a master’s program at Harvard. And that it shouldn’t be a miracle. It should be just something that is clear.”

You can listen to School's In on SiriusXM Insight channel 121, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Soundcloud.

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