Camelot Principal Profile: LaTonya Jarrett
LaTonya Jarrett is leading Camelot’s newest transition school, Camelot Academy of Chicago in the South Shore section of the City’s Southside. After serving as an assistant principal for a charter school in Gary, Indiana LaTonya is excited to return to her hometown and have the chance to educate students using the Camelot model.
Why did you choose Camelot?
I was impressed with Camelot giving a second chance to students who have struggled academically or in other ways at school; I was really drawn to the school because of that aspect. When I did my research and learned more about it and found out the difference that Camelot makes, I was really impressed with that and their whole philosophy. The small facility, the behavior staff, and having the executive director, I liked the idea of having so much additional support.
How does the transitional school model differ from the other types of schools that Camelot offers?
The students that we get are students who have been expelled from the district school. So, that’s really different because some students are here only for emergency placement which could be as short as 45 days. We try to find ways to give them everything they need academically in that short time period and that’s really different because in a traditional school setting students are with you the whole year. But, we still uphold the academics. Our students come with a lot of discipline problems, but the beauty of Camelot is that we have a lot of behavior support staff which is really helpful to the teachers.
What characteristics do you look for when building your team?
Reflective. Responsive. Resilient. I look for someone who is resilient; you have to be resilient in this type of environment. And someone who is in it for the long haul, and who knows that every day won’t be peachy. They also have to be reflective, and have to be able to analyze and be responsive to each day.
What do you expect from your students after they graduate or return to their home school?
We expect them to transition back to their home schools and reflect on the things that they learned here at Camelot Academy of Chicago. When they go back to a normal school setting they may not have norms, they’ll have rules, but they buy-in to the norms because with rules you feel like someone is telling you what to do, but with the norms you learn that this is just a way you should do things.
So, one of the things we’ve done is implement character education. We look at character and try to help them know that this is what you do regardless of where you are. You want to be trustworthy, you want to show respect, you want to have responsibility for who you are and what you do, you want to be fair in life, you want to be caring and you want to be a good citizen. These are things we try to develop in them so when they go back regardless of what happens they are able to refer to that.
Being from Chicago are you able to relate to your students and staff more effectively?
I understand Chicago very well, as I was born and raised here. I understand the issues the students are faced with and I know the communities which they come from. I was also a teacher in Chicago Public Schools for 13 years, many of the schools they come from I know the principal and staff, and in most cases that helps build relationships with the students. Being from Chicago helps relate to the teachers because some have taught previously in the school district and that instantly draws a connection academically and socially with the students we serve.
What your favorite part of the job so far?
I really like getting in the classroom and seeing students have that “ah-ha” moment when they’re learning something. I enjoy being able to see the teachers be strategic with their planning and their preparation. I also love the Camelot model; I think this is something that school district’s need to look at.