“Ramsay High School is over 70 years old and has a rich history and tradition,” says Mark Sullivan. “As one of only 12 principals to lead the school, I take my role very seriously.” Sullivan, who recently moved to Ramsay from Phillips Academy – another Birmingham City School known for its high academic standards for students and accountability for teachers – knows how important it is to create high-performing schools, especially in urban districts, where parents and students often face challenges that neighboring systems don’t encounter.
For example, during his tenure as principal at Glen iris Elementary, Sullivan notes that the population of English-Language Learners (ELL) increased dramatically from approximately 40 to over 200 students. “We had one ELL teacher, so to assist our parents, we added two more ELL teachers and three bilingual paraprofessionals,” Sullivan says, “but I still felt more could be done.”
To better understand the needs of ELL parents, Sullivan sent home a questionnaire. He found out how many would be interested in English language classes, and discussed the issue with a parent of one of his preschool students, Gwendolyn Ekundayo, who also happened to be the Director of Adult Education at Lawson State. “Call it divine intervention or destiny,” Sullivan laughs. “But whatever it was it turned into a true partnership – Lawson State provided teachers, textbooks, and a curriculum.” What started as a program for about 16 parents, soon grew to serve over 70.
Today the adult ELL program at Glen Iris continues under principal Michael Wilson, which now provides English lessons as well as GED preparation.
It is my greatest professional accomplishment,” Sullivan says, “That simple idea to assist parents in helping their children has grown into a vehicle to change lives.”
For Ed, Sullivan represents a true leader, an advocate for kids, a sea change. He has a clear vision for the school that aligns with the district’s mission, a desire that his students become more invested in “community outreach and giving back to our community,” and a high standard for their success. He says, “As a college preparatory school, we will ensure that all of our students are prepared to succeed at any college. We will give our students the skills and tools necessary to be responsible global minded citizens. We believe that our students are capable enough and that our teachers are skilled enough to propel Ramsay to the top 10 of all high schools nationally.”
This is what Ed has in common with Sullivan and so many other dedicated educators in Birmingham City Schools: this excitement around the potential of our students. “With the Ed Foundation,” Sullivan says, “There’s a sense that everyone has a vested interest in the success of the students of the Birmingham School System. That they are people who are willing to invest time and financial resources in our schools speaks volumes to their commitment to our students.” And also to you, Mr. Sullivan. Also to you.