Searching for the principal at Chalmers Elementary School on Chicago’s west side?  Don’t look in the principal’s office.

Romian Crockett is building relationships left and right in his first few months as the school’s leader.  An EdD Urban Education Leadership student, Crockett can be found in the hallways, in the cafeteria and at sporting events creating dialogue with students, parents and staff.

“My influence is a lot richer in my opinion than someone that comes in as a boss and just demands respect and control of the school,” Crockett said. “The relationship piece has been my first priority, collectively bringing the entire school together to develop core values.”

As a Black male succeeding a White principal, Crockett says community members view his principalship as a sign of hope, a feeling he hopes to build upon in molding the school’s culture.  He envisions a school built with foundations of expectations for students, for adults and for budgeting.  One of his first key moves was to move the school’s Open House from the gymnasium to the school at large, to see where kids are learning and to meet with teachers, setting the expectation for greater parent-teacher interactions moving forward.

In the classroom, Crockett is leading an examination of instructional practices, charting teachers’ strengths and areas for growth and providing coaching.  School-wide efforts to move practice are focusing on lesson planning.  Steps to provide adults with tools for success aim to address the school’s high number of students not on track for graduation.

To further address the on track issue, Crockett leads discussion at staff meetings on strategies to create greater impacts on the lives of students.  He wants teachers to focus on what they can do, not factors outside of their control in the community.  On a more tangible level, he is starting a tutoring program led by students from the University of Chicago to work with students struggling to remain on track.

Chalmers hosts a significant number of homeless students, presenting Crockett with another area for cultural growth.  Crockett says in previous years, with a significant proportion of students who couldn’t afford small payments for school-related functions, like a $5 payment for a Halloween party, the school would simply cover everyone’s payment.  He wants to change that mindset, not in an excluding way, but to reduce moments of enabling.

“We’re trying to change mindsets on a lot of issues, and I aim for that to trickle down to everything else,” Crockett said. “Our expectations for students and adults need to shift.”