Here & Now: We’ve come a long way in education

By Dr. Zora Denson and Verta Looper

In the organizational wheel of the Lancaster County School District are many outstanding, talented and dedicated “spokes.” The district’s educators, directors and principals are the core of what makes our schools and programs great. We honor all of you all and the Lancaster County school board.

Marjorie McMurray’s stellar career in education as an art and music teacher earned her an immortal place in Lancaster’s Educators Hall of Fame, an honor bestowed in 2005.

As a champion for education, during the 1985 bicentennial celebration of Lancaster’s Black history, McMurray and a historical committee acknowledged the success of the Lancaster’s first Black female principal, Mary Mackey Robertson.

This second part of Here & Now pays homage to Black women who formerly held the position of principal and those who have significantly contributed to the quality of education within the Lancaster County School District. These trailblazers paved the way for others to come.

We proudly salute Dr. Katie Brown, Nancy Crockett, Mae Crawford, Patricia Bufford, Charlene McGriff, Walter Tillman, Mable Mickle, Betty Gilliam, Thelathia Bailey, Dr. Deborah Cureton, Doris Hood, Sandra Jones Izzard and Dr. Charmaine Stradford.

Standing upon their shoulders currently are Black women who are setting the professional tone for the future. They are committed to quality education for all of Lancaster County School District’s children.

There are seven African-American female principals / directors currently making a difference in local education. These leaders serve across all levels in our elementary, middle and high schools. This edition of Here & Now focuses on the highly successful leadership of the following women:

Anita Watts, principal of Barr Street Learning Center

Barr Street Learning Center is an alternative extension of Lancaster County schools that serves students who face difficulty in the traditional school setting, due to academics, behavior or truancy. The goal of the learning center is to transition students back to their original school setting, where they can get back on their path to success.

Keisha Witherspoon, principal of John J. Clinton Elementary School

The school is proudly and prominently named for one of Lancaster’s first Black doctors, John Jacob Clinton. Born in 1889, he was the son of slave parents. Clinton Elementary is proud of one of its educational resources – the 21st Century Community Learning Center. The four-day-a-week after-school program provides academic assistance to increase student achievement.

Keishea Mickles, principal of North Elementary School

North is guided by its framework, “The Leader in Me,” a student leadership program that empowers 21st-century learners with the skills to make positive, effective and responsible choices by introducing and reinforcing the leadership and life principles in the book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, ”by Stephen Covey.

Michelle Crosby, principal of AR Rucker Middle School

The school is named for Aaron Riley Rucker, who was principal of Lancaster Training School in 1941 and later promoted to supervising principal of Black schools in the city of Lancaster. Among the many positive academic programs there, the school’s highly successful Making Middle Grades Work program is highlighted for its focus on high school drop-out prevention. The program is designed for students between the ages of 11 and 16.

Shuntay Miller, principal of Andrew Jackson High School

A visual and performing arts high school, Andrew Jackson High offers an expanded arts curriculum, including focus programs in visual arts, dance, drama, and vocal and instrumental music.

Rosalyn Mood, principal of Lancaster High School

Lancaster High School serves as a hub for career education in Lancaster County, providing a drop-out prevention program targeting ninth-graders. The school won a $ 200,000 three-year grant for the Read Right Program to support and improve literacy among students with a challenging curriculum in partnership with their homes and the community.

Dr. Kimerla W. Linton, Adult Education director

Adult Education’s focus is to enable adult students and community members to improve their personal, educational and career goals. The school offers students GED exam preparation, the opportunity to earn a high school diploma, literacy competence and a tutorial service for completing high school exams, as well as career coaching.

Crosby, Mood and Witherspoon are also instrumental in the Promise Neighborhood project. The five-year $ 28 million grant, announced last September, is the largest grant ever awarded to the city of Lancaster for a community program enabling families and students to achieve academic success and community restoration. Lancaster County Councilwoman Charlene McGriff, a former school board trustee, was instrumental in solidifying this grant.

McMurray’s Here & There column never failed to inform. Week after week, she left readers wanting to know more, so we invite you to stay tuned for more exciting community happenings this month as we follow her path to Here & Now.

Dr. Zora Denson is director of community relations for Heath Springs and Verta Looper is secretary of the Lancaster County Democratic Women’s Council.

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