In 2013, Dana Jenkins narrowly escaped the chopping block.
At the time, the Philadelphia School District’s finances were in a particularly sorry state. Nearly 4,000 layoff notices had been sent out to staffers. Some positions, including several assistant principal posts, were outright eliminated, including Jenkins’ at Roxborough High School.
Had she not been tapped to lead the Northwest Philadelphia school after its principal, Stephen Brandt, accepted a job in the suburbs, it’s unclear where Jenkins would be now – or Roxborough for that matter.
“I feel like I’m blessed. I feel like the school is blessed,” said Jenkins that June.
For four years, Jenkins helped get the ball rolling on a long term effort to transform Roxborough into a place known for academic achievement, not the disciplinary problems that had landed the school on the state’s “persistently dangerous” list when she first arrived.
It was paying off.
When Brandt announced he was leaving, Jenkins was seen as the only one who could carry the torch.
They were right. Two years later, there’s still room for improvement, but the calculated, multi-pronged plan has continued to pay dividends, much to the delight of staffers, students and, of course, Jenkins.
“Our kids are getting accepted to the upper-echelon schools,” she boasted during her lunch break on Tuesday.
And so, for the Roxborough “family,” it likely wasn’t a surprise that, hours later, Jenkins joined six other principals at Center City’s Prince Music Theater to receive the Lindback Award for Distinguished Principal Leadership.
The honor, funded by the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation of Philadelphia, is handed out annually to principals in the district “who have made significant leadership and humanitarian contributions to his/her students, staff and community.”
The award comes with a $20,000 check for the school’s general operating budget.
For Jenkins, it’s a signal that Roxborough High School really is on the right path, of what, as she put it, “we” have achieved. Brandt was also given the Lindback award.
“We are moving clearly…to a school now that is totally focused on college and career connections for our children. Our conversations are very different,” she said.
Jenkins was not the only Northwest Philadelphia educator to be honored Tuesday.
William Wade, principal at Martin Luther King High School and Anthony Majewski, principal at Hill-Freedman World Academy also took home awards.
Majewski has overseen the overseen school’s expansion into high school beginning in 2013. He started his career in the business world as an environmental consultant. In an earlier interview with NewsWorks, he says it serves him in his current role, including the art of “having expectations and meeting them.”
Wade says he was “elated” when he got word that he won the award.
For close to two years, Wade has devoted considerable energy to smoothing out the rough edges created when hundreds of students from the now-shuttered Germantown High School enrolled at King in nearby West Oak Lane.
The significant boost to the school’s population was one thing, but students from Germantown and King also had a history of clashing with one another.
For Wade, the Lindback award is, in part, a reflection that the school has truly responded to the impact of those realities while also advancing its academic culture.
He is especially proud of the school’s progress when it comes to graduation and attendance rates during the transition. Both, he said, show that there’s a growing sense of accountability among students and staff, which he hopes will translated to a better academic reputation.
“It actually puts a spotlight on our work,” said Wade of the award.
Other honorees included Dr. Robin Copper at William C. Longstreth Elementary School; Dr. Karren Dunkley at Parkway Center City High School; Stefan Feaster Eberhardt with Dr. Ethel Allen Promise Academy; and Mickey Komins at Anne Frank Elementary School.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article inadvertently left out Anthony Majewski. NewsWorks regrets the error.