NEWARK, NJ — Superintendent Roger Leon has appointed LaShanda Gilliam, vice principal of 13th Avenue School, to be the principal of the new Michelle Obama Elementary School, set to open its doors in September. The superintendent is confident that the Michelle Obama Elementary School will redefine education in the city of Newark; the school will begin at the academic level of Pre-K3 and grow a new grade level each year.
“Ms. Gilliam has done an absolutely incredible job in our school district. She understands the realities of our students and will continue to be an inspiration to students and their families,” Leon said.
Raised in Newark, Gilliam attended Newark Public Schools and graduated from West Side High School. In 1995, she graduated from Montclair State University, beginning her career as a first-grade teacher at Benjamin Franklin School in Newark. Soon thereafter, she received a master’s degree in reading from MSU. After becoming a licensed reading specialist, she worked as a resource teacher coordinator for the Office of Language Arts Literacy. It was during this tenure that Gilliam began to see the incredible impact she was making across the district in a variety of schools. As a result of this revelation, Gilliam decided she wanted to become a school-based instructional leader. After receiving a second master’s degree in educational leadership from Fordham University, she became the vice principal of Vailsburg Middle School in 2005. Gilliam later transferred to 13th Avenue School, where she has flourished for the past 10 years. Her tenure at 13th Avenue has been marked by quality leadership and a positive climate and culture. It has also been during this time that she has been able to help lead 13th Avenue School to an increase in teacher retention and student achievement.
“When students are given a positive learning environment, strong and knowledgeable leadership, they undoubtedly thrive,” Gilliam said. “The Michelle Obama Elementary School will be the pillar of public service, building excellence in every student as they powerfully impact the city of Newark and the world.”