WEST ORANGE, NJ — Tamika A. Pollins has been named the director of assessment, accountability and intervention for the West Orange School District. Pollins began work in this newly created position on Aug. 2 and is looking forward to making a positive impact in areas that include student achievement and assessments, grant writing, and equity.
Born in Philadelphia, Pa., Pollins pointed to her graduation from Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, where she received her undergraduate degree in elementary education.
“Lincoln University was founded in 1854 as the nation’s first degree-granting historically black college and university, or HBCU, and I am a very proud graduate of Lincoln University,” Pollins said. “I always knew I wanted to be an administrator,” she added as she described her pathway to that goal.
As Pollins began teaching elementary school and developing evaluation systems, she also continued her education. Pollins received her Master of Science in curriculum and instruction from St. Joseph’s University and her doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Northeastern University. She is certified to be a superintendent, principal, curriculum supervisor and teacher.
“I always like to be prepared,” she joked.
After graduation from Lincoln, Pollins served as a teacher in Philadelphia and Houston, Texas, while continuing to develop her skills in assessment, evaluation and implementation.
Pollins made the move to West Orange from the Hoboken Public Schools, where she began as the principal of Thomas G. Connors Elementary School. She was then promoted to the position of director of diversity, equity and inclusion in 2019 to create a new department in the Hudson County School System, drawing on her years of experience in strengthening school culture through data analysis, leadership and training.
Hoboken Public Schools was one of seven recent recipients of the 2021 Lighthouse Award from the New Jersey Department of Education, which recognizes districts and charters that have demonstrated measurable progress toward equitable outcomes in a specific area. The awardees are chosen by the NJDOE and not nominated.
“We amplified our voices and came together to be a bridge over troubled waters,” Pollins said, noting the work done by staff, students and the community, which led to the award.
When asked why she left Hoboken for West Orange, Pollins said, “I wanted to meet a need and bring my knowledge and skills to the table. I am here to provide service to the children.”
In her long career, Pollins has been particularly successful in building multi-tier support systems and creating programming based on data analysis that is designed to meet student needs. She will be working closely with the district skills interventionists as a student success team to develop a strong sense of teamwork while working in the best interest of students, a philosophy she feels is essential to all areas of education. It is particularly important to Pollins that equity and a sense of belonging are present for all students as an inclusive community.
“It’s important to shape our systems to accommodate our kids,” she said.
Prior to her work in Hudson County, Pollins served at Rutgers University as the assistant director of school implementation and educator evaluation, helping to create a new multiyear project that provided consultation to principals and chief school administrators in the areas of human capital management and data-based decision making. As an educator quality specialist for the Rhode Island Department of Education, she helped to develop a new educator evaluation system. She led the design of the student learning objective process that is currently being implemented as a part of the Rhode Island Model Educator Evaluation and Support System.
As if her success in the field of education were not enough, Pollins owns her own consulting business, Pollins and Associates, which provides educational services in a variety of educational disciplines. Pollins herself concentrates on social justice, strategic planning, diversity, equity and inclusion, communication, and “think tanks,” which provide a forum for staff to identify challenges and creative ways to solve them.
“I like to talk about ‘wins’ and ‘wishes,’ when talking to staff and stakeholders,” she said. “‘Wins’ are for what’s working and ‘wishes’ are for areas of improvement.”
Pollins heads into her position as director of assessment, accountability and intervention with a vision to continue to empower and support the students and staff in the West Orange School District and utilize their voices to build a more successful school system.
“I want to become part of the fabric of the West Orange community and have conversations with students, parents and staff to know what the kids need from their perspective. A team approach is always in the best interest of our kids,” she said.