Interim principal at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School wins the job permanently

Managing Assistant Principal Nicholas D'Ambrosio, photographed last summer at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School, has won the job permanently. (File photo / August 16, 2012)

As the Roland Park Elementary/Middle School year ends and students rise to the next level, interim principal Nicholas D’Ambrosio can count himself as a graduate, too.

D’Ambrosio, whose temporary title this past year was managing assistant principal of Roland Park Elementary/Middle, has been named principal, winning the job permanently. It’s a hard-earned, circuitous promotion for D’Ambrosio, 32, of Anne Arundel County, who is affectionately known to parents and staff as “Mr. D.”

In 2010, he was about to start his fourth year as assistant principal when he was named interim principal of Francis Scott Key Elementary in south Baltimore.

Last summer, he was called back to Roland Park as interim principal following the sudden retirement of Carolyn Cole.

After a national search that involved an advisory panel of parents, teachers and faculty, the school board voted May 14 to appoint him as principal. Now, there’s no proverbial asterisk next to his name.

“It’s official,” he said. “Now that I have that burden lifted, I can focus on my job.”

Not that he hasn’t already.

“We moved right ahead,” he said, citing the addition of a behavior management specialist on staff and the formation of after-school initiatives, including a wrestling team and a mentoring program.

D’Ambrosio said he also instituted monthly “town meetings” in the middle school, led by teachers, parents, and in one case, eighth graders, to teach them about collaboration, “which I think was impactful.”

He also said parents had more opportunities for input about how the school of 1,340 students should spend its $8 million budget for the 2012-13 school year, about $5,000 per student, allocated by the city school system.

About 97 percent of the school’s budget each year goes to salaries, he said.

Amy Bonitz Palmer said that when she and other parents lobbied to add more K-2 teachers, “the parents were impressed with the creativity and responsiveness of Mr. D’s leadership in addressing the issue and bringing more resources to the table.”

Academically the school is traditionally strong, with average scores on state-mandated reading and math tests in the top 10 of all city schools.

In an interview last summer, D’Ambrosio said there’s room for improvement — especially in math, which typically lags behind reading citywide.

D’Ambrosio won’t know until July how students fared on this year’s tests.

But a lot of parents are excited about him. The school’s Facebook page is full of congratulatory messages.

“I think in general he is a very effective communicator with a proven ability to work collaboratively with parents, faculty and students to raise the level of excellence at our school,” Palmer said. “I can’t wait to see what the future holds under his leadership.”

“He’s earned everyone’s respect,” said parent Elizabeth Reichelt, of Homeland, who served on an ad hoc committee that organized community forums to identify “what we wanted in a principal.”

Reichelt said she was struck by D’Ambrosio’s ability to communicate effectively with parents, teachers and students — “three very different groups,” she said.