The middle school too is growing, with Ingenuity and Advanced Academics magnet programs. It's also a feeder school for students from Medfield Elementary, a school near Hampden for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, D'Ambrosio said.

"I'm excited to be here," he told the Messenger. "It's been such an easy transition. I know people. There has not been a major staff turnaround. I know the strengths and weaknesses of the school."

One of its weakness was solved last week, when the aging building was closed for two days to install central air-conditioning.

Academically the school is strong, with average scores on state-mandated reading and math tests in the top 10 of all city public schools — 93.9 percent in reading and 86.5 percent in math in 2011, both slight increases over the previous year's percentages, he said. But there is room for improvement, especially in math, which typically lags behind reading citywide, he said.


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"We want to look at our data down to the individual student and make sure every student does well," D'Ambrosio said. "We want our students to achieve in math the same way they are in reading."

He has no plans to institute middle school recess, saying he agrees with Cole's policy, which some parents have protested. Supporters of middle school recess say it's important because it gives the school's 660 children in sixth through eighth grades a much-needed break from academics during the day.

Cole said last year she was open to the idea of middle school recess during lunchtime, but not to the notion of restructuring the school day around a 25-minute recess. Baltimore City school board commissioner Bob Heck, a Roland Park parent, said last year that the issues were scheduling, staffing and safety, and questioned whether there was enough manpower to safeguard children at a daily recess.

"It's a staffing issue," D'Ambrosio agreed. "If we could, we would."

At least for now, whether he is the interim or permanent principal at Roland Park is unimportant, he said.

"I'm being held accountable as any principal would," he said. "If a school leader's vision doesn't match up with the needs of the parents, the students and the staff, it's not going to go anywhere."

On Monday, he told the teachers he wants them to be reflective, collaborative, focused on the big picture, open to feedback, punctual, professional, and above all, supportive of students and parents.

"Everybody is here to support children at Roland Park," he said.