New Leader at Metropolitan Ministries Partnership School
Principal Jonathan Grantham - a self-described "instructional leader" - will focus on reading this year with his Anywhere, Anytime, Any Book program.
Principal Jonathan Grantham had a surefire way to get closer in touch with students: shave about 1,740 off the head count.
And so it went this summer when he left the Leon County school district and a school with 1,800 students, and arrived in Tampa this month to head the Metropolitan Ministries Partnership School. Student population: 60.
“It’s much more rewarding,” Grantham said of his new job. “You help children that have been dealt a difficult hand, and you’re trying to provide them an opportunity for a more rewarding life.” Metropolitan Ministries, a faith-based charity headquartered in Tampa Heights, founded its school as a charter in 1998. In 2009 the nonprofit gave up the school’s charter license and teamed with the Hillsborough County school district to make it a partnership school. It’s located at the YMCA facility at 102 E Palm Ave., and teaches kindergarten through fifth grade.
Grantham said most of his students are from families either currently or formerly served by Metropolitan Ministries’ shelters and outreach programs. About eight of them are homeless. “These children don’t have a place to sleep,” Grantham said. ”It makes you appreciate what you have, and makes you work twice as hard.”
Grantham didn’t have to become his students’ principal to understand their hardships. “I grew up extremely poor, and education was my way out,” he said. Growing up in a small town in Leon County, Grantham’s dad worked odd jobs, and his mother was a teacher. Though they constantly struggled to pay the bills, Grantham said his family at least had a roof over their heads and a means of transportation. Now he’s grateful for the perspective his new job affords. “I come here,” he said, “and I see I had a lot compared to these students.”
Grantham, 35, attended Florida State University, earning a bachelor’s, master’s, specialist, and finally a doctorate degree in educational leadership and policy studies in 2006. He taught algebra for the Bay County school district from 1998 to 2004. In 2005 he began his tenure with Leon County school district as an assistant principal. In 2007 he was promoted to principal, a position he held until taking his current job.
As for curricular changes Grantham wants to implement, he said, “We’re really going to focus on reading this year.” He’s devised a program he calls Anywhere, Anytime, Any Book, which will provide every student with a mentor from the community, whose job it is to read to them for 20 minutes every day. The mentor can choose any time during the school day. “If a volunteer comes at eight in the morning,” said Grantham, “and they want to read with their mentee, they can pull them out of class.”
Students can also expect more field trips this year. Grantham is considering Ybor City, Lowry Park Zoo, the John F. Germany Public Library, and the downtown Publix.
As for capital improvements, Grantham said he plans to equip each of his seven classrooms with a SMART board interactive touch screen with projector, and document camera.
Striking a balance between administrator and educator is a dynamic that principals must face. Grantham is settled in his formula. “I call myself an instructional leader,” he said. “And that means that you’re in the classrooms. My first priority are the kids.”