MAPLEWOOD, NJ — During the past few years, there has been significant turnover in administrators in the South Orange-Maplewood School District. The most recent upset came June 20, when Maplewood Middle School Principal Jerrill Adams resigned his post after less than two years. But there was a silver lining: That same night the Board of Education formally appointed Damion Frye to head Seth Boyden School in Maplewood.
Frye replaces retiring Principal Mark Quiles, though not everyone on the BOE was supportive of this decision, with the vote coming in at 6-1; Johanna Wright voted no, Annemarie Maini abstained and Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad was absent.
Frye was an educator, teaching various grades and subjects, for 12 years in both public and charter schools. For the past five years, he served as director of mathematics for New York City school district and as a special assistant for curriculum and instruction in Newark.
Frye himself is excited for the opportunity to lead Seth Boyden.
“When I was part of the team that started the Equity Project Charter School, a member of that team was Rhena Jasey, who was a former teacher at Seth Boyden,” Frye told the News-Record last week via email. “I loved hearing her stories of the kinds of project-based learning, thoughtful lessons and the caring community that make up the fabric of the school. Knowing that these aspects match my fundamental beliefs about teaching and learning, I was excited to apply for the position.”
While Frye is full of ideas to improve education both at Seth Boyden and within the community, he intends to stay the course for some time.
“Seth Boyden is already an excellent school with a great staff, parents and student body,” he said. “I want to continue the environmental education focus that Mr. Quiles began and ensure everyone is using the outdoor classroom.
“The only problem I foresee will be my desire to implement some additional ideas all at once, knowing that the teachers already have much to consider,” he continued. “Hence, any additional ideas will have to be rolled out when the staff is ready and I can fully support their needs.”
At his past jobs, Frye was known for implementing innovative initiatives. As an English teacher at Montclair High School he gained media attention in 2007 for his homework assignments, which were assigned to both students and parents. He would assign readings to parents, which they were tasked with responding to on a blog Frye had started. The initiative was intended to get parents more involved in their children’s education. It received mixed reviews, with some parents enjoying the chance to relive pleasant memories of high school English and some feeling coerced into taking time out of their already busy days to complete the assignments.
All of this innovation really comes down to his love of teaching.
“I love being able to watch instruction happening across the grade levels,” Frye said. “It’s so exciting to see how different teachers approach the same content and how students respond to those various ways of providing learning opportunities.
“I am truly humbled and honored to have been given the chance to lead the Seth Boyden community,” he continued. “The administration team and faculty will work to ensure that the students engage in learning experiences which are innovative but still grounded in helping to envision what can be possible for students of all ages.”