Ready to take reins at Edgewood Middle

Mich. native named principal

August 24, 2008|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,[Special to The Baltimore Sun]

Lawrence Rudolph has spent his life watching kids in tough situations. He grew up on the east side of Detroit, in a single-family home, in a neighborhood where the average life expectancy for an African-American male was 18.

But if he had listened to what people said about growing up in his neighborhood, he would have been dead by 17, he said.

"I had a strong mind and a strong mother," Rudolph said. "I learned early on in life that you don't have to be a product of your environment."

It seems only fitting that in June he moved to Harford County to become the principal of Edgewood Middle School.

Although he faces big obstacles - the school has not met AYP (annual yearly progress) in five years and people have a poor perception about the schools along the Route 40 corridor - he's up for the challenge, he said. "My goal is to make Edgewood Middle School the best in the county," said Rudolph, who left a position in Michigan to take the job.

"I did a lot of praying before I came here, and this is where God wants me to be."

First on his agenda is building relationships with the students, said Rudolph, who earned a bachelor's and master's degree from Hampton University in Virginia. To do this, he hangs out in the hallways and sits down for lunch with his young charges.

"You can't find out what's going on sitting in your office," Rudolph said. "What better way is there to get to know kids than to sit down and eat lunch with them? It shows them that I'm human."

Rudolph, who loves to cook and travel, said he has an open-door policy. He is laid back but strictly business. He disciplines but with dignity, said Rudolph, who earned a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in education leadership and organizations.

In addition to Rudolph, the school added 33 teachers, he said. During a recent meeting, he told the school's 75 teachers to each build a relationship with one child.

"I told the teachers to treat the children how they treat their own children," said Rudolph, who is single and has no children.

Rudolph has empowered the staff and teachers to make their own decisions, said Buzz Williams, the school's new assistant principal for the office for students with disabilities. "He's the type of person who encourages us to be quiet and understand before making choices," Williams said. "I like that."

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