One of my education reporting maxims is that principals of schools in troubled districts never seek me out. Journalists are poison to them. We only want to write about bad stuff. Anything they say can be held against them.
So I was surprised when Charlie Thomas, principal of Crossland High School in Prince George’s County, began sending me emails. His school has been one of the worst in a low-performing district for a long time. But Thomas, who arrived in 2004, was trying to improve his school and was willing even to deal with a fault-finding columnist if it would help. Nearly 66 percent of his students were low-income, but he was not going to let that slow him down.
I confess he has gotten my attention with some unusual moves. For instance, he quickly discovered that close to 800 of his 1,800 students were still in the ninth grade. “I asked for a list of every ninth grade student that was 16 years old or older with a grade point average of less than 1.0 [a D average],” he told me. The list had 330 names. Some had been there four or five years.