Servant Leadership, Success as a Principal, Social Justice in Schools, and More w/ ASCD Best Selling Author Principal Baruti Kafele

by | Mar 15, 2021 | 1 comment

7 min read

A highly-regarded urban educator in New Jersey for over twenty years, Principal Baruti Kafele distinguished himself as a master teacher and a transformational school leader. As an elementary school teacher in East Orange, NJ, he was selected as the East Orange School District and Essex County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, he was a New Jersey State Teacher of the Year finalist, and a recipient of the New Jersey Education Association Award of Excellence.

As a middle and high school principal, Principal Kafele led the turnaround of four different New Jersey urban schools, including “The Mighty” Newark Tech, which went from a low-performing school in need of improvement to national recognition, which included U.S. News and World Report Magazine recognizing it three times as one of America’s best high schools.

One of the most sought-after school leadership experts and education speakers in America, Principal Kafele is impacting America’s schools! He has delivered over two thousand conference and program keynotes, professional development workshops, parenting seminars and student assemblies over his 34 years of public speaking. An expert in the area of “attitude transformation,” Principal Kafele is the leading authority for providing effective classroom and school leadership strategies toward closing what he coined as the “Attitude Gap.”

A prolific writer, Principal Kafele has written extensively on professional development strategies for creating a positive school climate and culture, transforming the attitudes of at-risk students, motivating Black males to excel in the classroom, and school leadership practices for inspiring schoolwide excellence. In addition to writing several professional articles for popular education journals, he has authored eleven books, including his six ASCD best sellers — Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School & in Life, Closing the Attitude Gap, The Teacher 50, Is My School a Better School BECAUSE I Lead It?, The Principal 50, and The Assistant Principal 50. He is also the author of the ASCD book, The Aspiring Principal 50. His next book – The Equity and Social Justice Education 50 will be released in May, 2021.

Key Thoughts from Our Interview w/ Principal Kafele:

Principal Kafele dives deep into how principals can best support their teachers to create an award winning school. He also delves into the topic of social justice and how every listener can better understand what this means to reimagine our schools for the future.

  • Listen to how Principal Kafele shielded his teachers, allowing them to focus on their classroom and their students.
  • Principal Kafele describes his philosophy regarding lesson planning and the power of only planning one week at a time. “If you’re not planning, you’re winging it.”
  • He describes what supportive leadership really is and what it looks like in practice. Don’t miss the story he tells about challenging his superintendent.  
  • Principal Kafele identifies Frank Mickens and his success as a principal as instrumental in his own development.
  • You don’t want to miss his advice on how to regain your purpose and stay true to your why. His own why: “I want to build men out of boys.”
  • Similar to other guests, Principal Kafele describes his desire to jump from an airplane. He already knows how to fly one. 
  • Several times, Principal Kafele described “holes” in our current conversations about equity in schools. He lists 4 books that everyone should read to have an understanding of race, racism, and social justice in America.
  • Listen to how Principal Kafele’s views have changed on teachers and what makes the difference in the lives of children. “We need solid people who can take care of business and who will learn what they don’t know.” 

Principal Kafele’s interview is a powerful testimony of someone who has successfully led award-winning schools amid incredibly challenging circumstances. We are grateful that he discussed how social justice can be reflected throughout the curriculum and what we can do to better prepare ourselves as educational leaders. It was an awesome follow-up to our latest blogpost on service leadership

We hope to hear from you about your favorite parts of both the blog and the interview. Please comment below. 

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Joe & T.J.


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1 Comment

  1. Roselynn

    I’ve been that teacher- where I was very motivated to overlook things, to stay somewhere, to make big decisions etc because of wanting to work for a particular leader or to help support a particular leader. Wanting to work for a person is a very motivating factor. I believe this can be seen in a lot of relationships- student/teacher, teacher/principal, educator/district.


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