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.”
Subscribe to our monthly newsletter.