Unusual path for new Patapsco principal
Wednesday, 21 August 2013 12:55

Craig Reed was named principal of Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts after four years as an assistant principal.
photo by Bill Gate

Reed went from selling cars to education career

by Bill Gates

Twelve years ago, Craig Reed sold cars for a living and was activated by the New Jersey National Guard in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
    Not the traditional jumping-off point for a journey that would lead him to the principal’s desk at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts.
    “I was a classic underachiever in high school,” said Reed, who was promoted from assistant principal at Patapsco after Ryan Imbriale left to take on another position in the county school system.
    Not being able to afford college, Reed joined the U.S. Army National Guard.
    That enabled the New Jersey native to attend Rutgers University for free — but he still had not considered a career in education.
    “I did six years in the National Guard, had a couple of other jobs,” Reed said. “I sold cars, sold sports nutritional supplements in Florida.
    “I was activated after 9/11 and assigned to airport security.”
    It was around then that Reed was considering marriage and reflecting on what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
    “I decided eduation was what I really wanted to do,” he said.
    Reed enrolled in a graduate program at Johns Hopkins University intended for people seeking career changes, with the goal of producing teachers for Baltimore City schools.
    Upon completing the program, Reed taught social studies and special education at Patterson High School for six years.
    He came to Patapsco High as an assistant principal four years ago and is starting his fifth year at the school.
    That has allowed him to make a smooth transition into the principal’s chair.
    “I’m very lucky to know all the staff here quite well,” Reed said. “I’m comfortable with everyone, and would hope they would be equally comfortable with me.”
    So Reed knows of all the accolades Patapsco has garnered over the last several years: academic awards from national magazines, national awards for its magnet programs, individual honors for teachers and students, and national recognition for its physical education program.
    “I don’t feel any pressure,” he said. “If we do the right things in the classroom every day, the results will be evident.
    “If we’re lucky enough to be recognized for those results, so be it.”
    Reed will introduce some new ideas. Already, he has introduced an idea that is practically the school’s unofficial new motto: “every student, every day.”
    “Awards are nice, but not the reason parents send their children here,” Reed said. “We need to be aware of every student every day.
    “We need to make good decisions for children, make them feel welcome every day.”
    Patapsco, like other Baltimore County schools, will also be adjusting to a curriculum change this year.
    The new “common core”  curriculum is designed to be very focused, very rigorous and challenging, with teachers encouraged to collaborate with students, other classes and members of the community.
    “The consequence of covering stuff more deeply is you cover less of it,” Reed said. “It’s more focused, but the time comes at a cost.”
    Patapsco, Reed said, will focus on basics such as reading; but in a way that stresses drawing comprehension out of complicated, challenging texts.
    “We’ve been a successful school, and I and all of the staff at the school have been a part of it,” Reed said. “I’ve been fortunate: I found myself in situations at Patterson where I could step up and show leadership, and [I was] fortunate when I came here to Patapsco and had an opportunity to grow.”
    Even if Patapsco, for all its success, still appears to be the overlooked school of Baltimore County.
    “Before I came to Patapsco, I had to look it up and learn about it,” Reed said. “It’s really a little gem.”