New Middle School Head Glen Pinder grew up in Willow Grove, PA, a suburb two miles north of Philadelphia. One can’t live that close to William Penn’s City of Brotherly Love without exposure to Quakerism, and Glen was no exception. “Abington Friends was close to where we grew up. My grandmother enrolled us in the day camp there. To us they were the rich people on the other side of town,” he chuckled. “They had this wonderful facility, a pool, acres of space that we had access to. I didn’t know much about Quakerism but later I learned it very much aligned with what I believe.”
He’s not kidding. Years later as an educator, Glen became enamored of the philosophy of “servant leadership” as espoused by Robert K. Greenleaf in the 1970s. Only recently did he learn that Greenleaf was a Quaker, so a position at BFS seemed a perfect fit.
Glen graduated from prestigious Morehouse College in Atlanta with a bachelors degree in Political Science. “I thought I wanted to be a lawyer,” he said. “I started substitute teaching to make extra money and realized I had a talent for working with children. I was pretty good at it. I went back and got my certification.”
After two years of teaching in Atlanta and plotting his future he got the urge to travel. He attended an international teaching job fair, and soon he was teaching in Kuwait. “I lived abroad for three years. While I was there I learned about The College of New Jersey’s Master of Education in Educational Leadership degree,” he said. The degree is especially geared toward those who want to become school principals. Soon he was off to Garden State.
Two years later Glen had earned the M.Ed. and remained in New Jersey working as a school principal in public schools and public charter schools in the area. One such school was the Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy charter school in Manhattan, where he served for three years as principal of this elementary and middle school.
“Harlem Children’s Zone is a social service organization that seeks to provide wraparound services to underprivileged children,” he explained. “The mindset is, we’re gonna remove the obstacles that get in children’s ways to education. When I got there the Promise Academy was one of the worst performing schools, and when I left it was one of the highest.” During his tenure Glen adopted Columbia University Teachers College’s reading and writing workshop model for English and Language Arts. After three years the school went from an F rating to an overall A rating, ranking in the top 1% of all New York City K-8 schools, a fact of which he is clearly proud.
Most recently Glen served as executive director of the Lady Liberty Academy, a charter school in Newark. “It was the equivalent of a superintendency position. In New Jersey you’re under district-level requirements…Somewhere around the end of last year I decided to make the change. After 12 years as a public school administrator I believed I was beaten around and kicked around enough,” he quipped. A friend heard about the BFS Middle School position and urged Glen to apply. “BFS was my first choice, and I feel fortunate enough to get the job.”
His master plan for his first year is to get acclimated to the surroundings. “I want to learn the culture, learn the children, advocate for them, learn about their families. Next year I’ll focus on goal-setting and things of a strategic nature,” he said. “I’m excited about the honest conversations the school is having on diversity. I know there have been a lot of changes, and that makes people anxious. You run the risk of coming in and fixing something that’s not broken.”
Interview by Jeffrey Stanley, August 2015