Principals Month Spotlight: Gerald Boyd, Executive Principal, IDEA Hardy

Gerald Boyd never imagined he would become the Founding Principal of an IDEA campus mere minutes from his childhood home.

“My campus is about fifteen minutes from where I grew up,” says Boyd, Executive Principal of IDEA Hardy in north-central Houston. “It’s ideal for me to come home and be able to launch two IDEA campuses.”

Boyd was the first in his family to graduate high school and attend college. During his freshman year at the University of Texas at Austin, he realized that access to an excellent education was not a guarantee for all students.

“I attended UT with 10 of my classmates. In our first semester, eight of us were put on academic probation, and four years later, only two of us graduated,” he says. “It was the first time I realized there was inequity in terms of access and quality of education.”

The experience was a formative one for Boyd and inspired him to join Teach For America (TFA) after finishing college. Boyd began teaching in his hometown of Houston, and many of the families were familiar.

“I was teaching the kids of people I’d grown up with,” he explains. “Seeing them not reading or that they were significantly behind grade-level made me stay in teaching after my two-year commitment to TFA.”

“I felt that God allowed me to finish college, and I had to pay it forward to make sure kids who grew up in the same community as I did have access to opportunities,” he adds.

Boyd understood what many of the students in his community were up against because he experienced much of it himself. However, he used it as fuel to push for better options.

“There was a fire in me to do better for myself, but I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I knew I wanted good grades and options to get out of my situation,” he says.

Boyd recalls receiving an academic scholarship and partial football scholarship to UT and losing them when he was placed on academic probation.

“Someone had to tell me I wasn’t going to be able to continue with college unless my grades improved, and it was a real wake up call to think about my livelihood,” he says. “I couldn’t go back home. I had people depending on me.”

Boyd says it was after joining a fraternity and witnessing a university Dean apply to Harvard University that he began to think about his success.

“Surrounding myself with people of color who were leaders and who looked like me helped me learn how to advocate for myself and ultimately graduate college and start my career,” he says. “That was my ‘aha’ moment that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to as long as you work hard.”

After stints teaching in Houston and serving as Dean of KIPP in Boston, Massachusetts, Boyd entered IDEA’s Principal in Residence (PIR) program in 2014. The program joins a cohort of the highest performing school leaders in the country for a full-time, intensive, paid learning opportunity that provides participants with leadership development from IDEA’s most successful school and district leaders. After completing the residency, PIRs lead IDEA schools as principals.

“The PIR Program was the first time I received coaching and very specific feedback as a professional,” he says. “Someone was coaching me on how to move instruction and lead teachers to get students where they need to be.”

Boyd says the challenge of IDEA’s PIR program is to push yourself to become a great leader.

“I wasn’t a successful PIR, so I had to go back and evaluate my failures. I needed to focus relentlessly on my failures to learn, grow, and ultimately be successful as a leader and principal.”

Boyd was a PIR at IDEA Mays when the campus became the first to achieve an A-rating by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), with A-ratings in all possible distinctions.

“To successfully lead teachers and support my students, I needed to learn the content,” says Boyd. “We were successful because I was able to name what our students needed to know and do to show mastery of the standard every day. So, my teachers and I were able to identify gaps in learning and close them quickly.”

Before moving to Houston as a principal to launch campuses, Boyd spent eight weeks at IDEA Najim in San Antonio. The school was projected to receive a lower rating from TEA but finished the year with a B-rating.

“We are able to turn things around by coaching our teachers to build the right content knowledge to put the right level of rigor in front of our kids,” he adds.

Today, Boyd oversees six PIRs and a principal at IDEA Greater Houston and still sees failure as a regular part of success.

“If my team fails, it means I am failing,” he says matter-of-factly. “It’s a sign that I am not doing something to set them up for success. It goes back to ownership.”

On his drive to do more for others in his community, Boyd cites his grandmother as his hero and inspiration.

“My grandmother raised me and took care of ten kids in her home. She successfully battled breast cancer twice and never complained and always found time to help others,” he says. “She’s someone I admire because the strongest people are the ones who break the cycle and create opportunities. She’s my motivation in who I continue to strive to be, but I’ve still got a long way to go.”

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