By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
CHERRY HILL â€“ George Guy Jr. entered Prairie View A&M University near Houston after attending high school in Willingboro to become a veterinarian.
God had other plans.
When he fell in love with education, he believed he would be working in an urban school district and in the ministry after earning his master’s degree in theological studies in 1999 at New Brunswick Theological Seminary.
Still, God had other plans.
Today, Guy, who has been principal for Rosa International Middle School in Cherry Hill since 2014 and chair of the New Jersey Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Commission for the past five year, has allowed that plan to grow and bring him to new heights.
“I have loved every minute of being a middle school principal,” Guy recently told Front Runner New Jersey.com. “Rosa has students come from all 12 elementary schools so I am able to meet with students and families from both the West and East sides of Cherry Hill.
Rosa is an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program School, which means “we see the New Jersey Performance Standards through different global ‘lens’ than other non-International Baccalaureate schools,” Guy said. “Rosa is a place where equitable outcomes for all students is a bar that has been set and I want to believe, during my tenure, I have attempted to raise that bar more and more each year.”
Guy has served in all school settings and is currently the district’s cultural proficiency committee, which is charged with using the tools of cultural proficiency to address inequitable educational outcomes that continue to fuel achievement gaps.
A Different Path
Guy has helped with the development and delivery of a standardized curriculum addressing cultural proficiency and helped draft hiring questions related to it.
“When I first got into school administration, I thought that I would be a school administrator in an urban district somewhere while also becoming an urban pastor,” Guy said. “Then I could use what I learned at NBTS to help urban communities. God did not have me walk that path.
“I have been able to use what I learned at NBTS and Rowan [University, where he earned a master’s in school administration] to help suburban schools and suburban communities. For the last five years I have worked as an equity consultant for the Foundation for Educational Administration and that is where I am able to support school leaders, teacher leaders and district leaders from urban, rural and suburban school districts from all 21 of our counties.”
A Day On, Not a Day Off
While teaching at Beck Middle School in 2003, Guy helped Beck start a Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service through a meeting with Todd Bernstein, president of Global Citizen during a Greater Southeastern Pennsylvania United Way meeting.
“Todd was looking for a New Jersey middle school to represent Camden County at the MLK Mural Arts Project,” Guy said. “The project is the kickoff to officially beginning the Southeastern Pennsylvania’s MLK Day of Service activities.Â That meant I had to recommend students who would work with me, our art teacher, and a mural artist from the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia.Â
“We worked hard in November to get our mural prepared to be sewn together with other murals from students who hailed from Burlington County, Philadelphia County, Delaware County and private religious schools. No one in Camden County, in Cherry Hill Public Schools, or at any of our middle schools had ever participated within a mural arts project that coupled famous speeches from Dr. King with artistic representation.
“In addition, my colleague, Ric Miscioscia and Josh Weinstein, helped to create a MLK Day of Service learning opportunity for our seventh grade students at one of the senior centers in Cherry Hill. That was an incredible experience for about forty students to interact with seniors on the Day of Service. They truly made it a ‘day on and not a day off.’ That set the tone for the Day of Service event to become yearly at Beck since 2003, even after I left Beck in 2006. I think that is why it is such a recognizable event,” Guy said.
As chair of the NJ Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Commission, Guy said he hopes to engage and inspire youth to help them find their voice on some of the most important issues of the day.
“This past January we had more than a 1,000 young people attend our first virtual youth conference,” Guy said. “We spoke about student voice, economics, mass incarceration, entertainment, and public policy. Our hope is to coalesce youth from all 21 counties around some of the topics addressed.
“The focus has been on the youth voice and public policy. That is a real focus for us. We are also had a chance to review videos made for diverse communities across the state that encourage COVID-19 vaccinations. Those are just some of the things we have done recently and we hope to tap into the assets that all our commissioners bring to the commission. Those assets will help further the ideals of Dr. King throughout our state,” Guy said.
Being a Role Model
As one of the few African American males in an administrative position in Camden County and South Jersey, Guy said he realizes his position as a role model in the community for young Black youth and others who may not often see someone of color in his position.
“I take my job as a role model in the community with the utmost regard,” Guy said. “Whether it is the Martin Luther King Commission chair, Rosa’s principal, working for the Foundation of Educational Administration as an equity consultant, or being the board president of my condominium association, or the Men of Color Network Facilitator for the Rowan University IMPACT Program (Increasing Male Practitioners and Classroom Teachers.
“I realize that people always look closely at what I say, do (or donâ€™t say or do). There is always an expectation, I think, in the African American community to ‘lift up’ others. I am no exception to that notion as it relates to being a role model. I welcome and relish the added pressure it places upon me. The old adage says that ‘pressure makes diamonds.’ And hopefully my work as a community role model will engender that work within all those whom I endeavor to help and support.”
The Rest of the Story
There are several other topics Guy shared with Front Runner New Jersey in his interview.
FRNJ: Tell me about your family and where you are from. Whatever you would like to share. What city are you in and what led you there? Education?
George Guy Jr: I am originally from New York but my family migrated to southern New Jersey when I was seven. I grew up in Willingboro and graduated from Willingboro High School in 1988. I decided to go to Prairie View A&M University and study biology so that I could eventually apply to veterinary school. By the time I matriculated through most of my coursework at PVAMU I realized that my strengths were more in theological education and in teaching. My eventual wifeâ€™s colleague encouraged me to apply to New Brunswick Theological Seminary and get my master’s in Theological Studies in Urban Ministry. So I applied and got in. After graduation from PVAMU I came back to New Jersey and started school at NBTS in New Brunswick.
While attending NBTS I worked as a security officer at a retirement facility. My eventual wife had another colleague who thought that if I was studying Urban Ministry at NBTS I should consider teaching within an urban school district-New Brunswick Public Schools. While my was pregnant with our first child. Since we planned for me to be the sole income earner, and I had no ministry opportunities that brought in a sustaining income, we needed to move on from New Brunswick Public Schools. I found a position as a seventh grade science teacher at the defunct Lower Camden County Regional District #1 (it is now Winslow Township Schools). We moved from New Brunswick to Maple Shade. I taught seventh grade science for two years before the district dissolved its regionalization. I was offered a seventh grade science position at Trenton Community Charter School. The commute from problematic and my wife was pregnant with our second child. So I decided to apply for a 7th grade position at the Beck Middle School in Cherry Hill.
Right before my second child was born we decided to move to Lindenwold. It was an opportunity to own our home and the community was and still is very ethnically and racially diverse. That was the kind of community we wanted to raise our two sons within. That is why we still live in Lindenwold today. I got to Beck in 2002 and realized that I had been impacting about 125-150 seventh and eighth grade science students. I now felt the calling of school administration to try and impact an entire school. I started Rowan Universityâ€™s Masters of Arts in School Administration and graduated in 2005. I got my first administrative position in July of 2006 at the Hartford Upper Elementary School in Mount Laurel Public Schools. I was a 6th grade assistant principal. In January of 2007, an elementary principal position became open at Fleetwood Elementary. I applied and got the position. This was my first principalship and I was excited. However, principals can put in 12-14 hour days and I was close to 50 minutes from home with very young children. At the end of my first year at Fleetwood I saw an opening for a principal position at A. Russell Knight Elementary in Cherry Hill Public Schools. This would be like a homegoing to me and would cut my commute down from 50 minutes to 20 minutes. I applied and got the position. I stayed at Russell Knight for six years until I was appointed to Rosa in 2014.
FRNJ: Who has and continues to inspire you?
George Guy Jr.: My students inspire me the most. Even during this pandemic. All 781 of my students remind me of the South African phrase, “Sawu Bona/Sikhona.” The first part means “I see you.” The second means, “I know that you see or value me as a person.” That is all I have endeavored to do in this “calling” of education. Have children feel like they have been “seen” and “valued” in substantive ways. How can students be “seen” during a pandemic? How are they “valued?” In the ensuing decades they will not remember social studies, science, math or English Language Arts. They will most remember how I, and all the other caring adults, made every effort to provide opportunities and create areas of access so that all children are “seen” and “valued” for who they are and for who they are becoming.
FRNJ: Where do you see yourself in five years?
George Guy Jr.: Hopefully in a position to move equity aspirations to equity in action. That may be as building administrator, or a central office administrator, or a superintendent of schools. We will see how the future unfolds.
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