Dr. Diamond Jack, principal of Michael R. Hollis Innovation Academy, was recently named to Atlanta Business League’s 2017 list of “Atlanta’s Top 100 Black Women of Influence.” This article highlights her story.
Visionary. This word has been used to describe Dr. Diamond Jack as a leader many times over by her faculty, staff, family, friends, and peers. Dr. Jack has served as principal of Michael R. Hollis Innovation Academy since its opening in August of 2016. As the leader of a turnaround school at Atlanta Public Schools, she has undoubtedly faced many challenges, but there have also been substantial rewards.
When asked about her most rewarding experience as principal of Hollis, Dr. Jack reflects on the drama department’s first musical production last spring, “Willy Wonka Jr.,” and the rigorous rehearsal schedules leading up to the night of the first performance.
“People were just in awe!” recalled Dr. Jack. “I thought to myself, ‘This is what school is about. It’s not always about academics. It’s about giving kids a full experience, things they will remember and cherish and be proud of’.”
She goes on to note that the process of producing the musical allowed the community to demonstrate collaboration, exemplary work ethics, and perseverance, among other things. “This is what our school is capable of doing. Our kids are more than capable. It was a prideful moment.”
To those who know Dr. Jack, it comes as no surprise that her most rewarding experience is unrelated to academic achievement or test scores. A walk through the halls of Hollis will inform any visitor that culture is a priority. Dr. Jack believes strongly in CREW, a daily Expeditionary Learning (EL) structure implemented on each grade level.
“I knew that we needed to build culture for this school, she said. “That was number one. Kids who have experienced failure for so long need to have strong self-efficacy; their identity needs to change. We have to build community. That’s what made us strong the first year, and that’s what’s going to keep us moving every single year. When you build relational characteristics, academics grow. You can’t teach people how to read if they don’t like you.”
Dr. Jack’s strong vision for Hollis continues to evolve as time progresses.
“Hollis is a unique school,” she said. “In five years, I foresee us attempting to maintain our small class sizes because of the demand to get here. We’ll be drawing a lot of attention for our EL education and expeditionary STEM curriculum. I also envision Hollis as a highly academically competitive school.”
Submitted by: Sharmaine Mitchell, marketing and media specialist at Hollis Innovation Academy