Like most administrators at Baltimore County public schools, Sparks Elementary School's new principal started out as a teacher, then moved on to assistant principal before being named principal.
But unlike others, Pamela Oliver-Jones had a long career outside of education before she got into teaching. She earned a master's degree in finance from University of Baltimore and worked in the finance departments of several corporations. She even taught some college accounting classes in Maryland and in Florida.
And it was that classroom experience that prompted her to make a career change in 2000. She attended the then College of Notre Dame where she majored in education, and she was hired to teach at Pinewood Elementary School in 2002.
"I have never looked back," she said. "It was wonderful being in a classroom."
She was picked as assistant principal at New Town Elementary School in 2008 and found she liked the administrative side of education as well.
"I liked seeing the whole picture. My principal at my first school asked me if I'd ever want to be a principal, so I think she planted the seed in me," said Oliver-Jones, who lives in Towson with her husband, Steve. They have two grown daughters.
She was named at the May 22 Board of Education meeting to succeed Sparks Principal Sharon Kearney, who retired.
"I was amazed to get Sparks," she said. "I knew about Sparks and its reputation as a great school with a lot of involvement from parents and community."
The folks at New Town Elementary School were sorry to see her go.
"Sparks is very lucky to have her," said Assistant Principal Christine Connolly who worked with Oliver-Jones for four years."She is such a hard worker, she's very confident and a great asset. She'll have a positive influence on Sparks."
Oliver-Jones spent a day at Sparks getting to know faculty and students before the end of the school year. Her new job started July 1.
"I feel I can really have an impact on teachers. That's why I'm here, to make sure I can support teachers and move instruction forward."
She faces a severely overcrowded school. Enrollment stands at 580 and the school's capacity is 410 students. There are seven trailers at the school that opened in 1998 three years after the original Sparks School burned down.
There are preliminary plans for a 200-seat addition to Sparks, but no date has been set for construction.