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New but familiar faces at the helms of two Laurel schools

Michael Dinkins is the new acting principal at Laurel High School, while Ursula Golladay is the new acting principal at Bond Mill Elementary School.
Michael Dinkins is the new acting principal at Laurel High School, while Ursula Golladay is the new acting principal at Bond Mill Elementary School. (Courtesy photos)

Despite only a handful of people in Laurel High’s School’s auditorium, at promptly 6 p.m., acting principal Michael Dinkins signaled it was time to begin.

Formerly an assistant principal at the school for 14 years, Dinkins was named acting principal for the 2019-2020 school year, after former principal Dwayne Jones retired at the end of the past school year.

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At a meet-and-greet on Aug. 25, Dinkins took charge, providing a brief background about himself before introducing his vision and goals for the upcoming school year.

“We [Laurel High School] do OK. We’ve done OK,” Dinkins said, referring to the school’s most recent report card from the Maryland State Department of Education for the 2017-18 school year, in which it received three out of five stars for earning 41.8 points out of 90 total — or 46%. Points were given for academic achievement, graduation rate, progress in achieving English language proficiency, readiness for post-secondary success and school quality and student success.

“We need to strive to work even harder,” Dinkins said.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Dinkins started teaching mathematics in 1995. In 2001, he moved to Maryland and became a teacher at Thurgood Marshall Middle School. In 2005, he became assistant principal at Laurel High School

“I have a lot of experience with the students here, with the parents here and with the staff here,” Dinkins said. “I accept the challenge.”

As parents and guardians steadily trickled into the auditorium, Dinkins presented his five goals for the upcoming school year, stressing the importance of each:

  • Increase student attendance
  • Increase promotion rate of first-time ninth graders to 10th graders
  • Increase academic achievement of all students
  • Increase student graduation
  • Create a more positive school culture

Dinkins also stated the importance of school activities from clubs to sports teams, with hopes to return winning sport teams to the high school, though studies come first.

“Always a student first, athlete second,” Dinkins said.

“It is reassuring to have somebody we know so well and who knows the school steering the ship,” said Kathy Murphy, a Laurel high school teacher, who was one of several teachers attending the event.

“I was really excited to hear Mr. Dinkins was going to be the acting principal,” said Otera Cunha, guardian for a rising 11th grader, after the presentation. “Last year he was so helpful to my niece … helping her to get help in subjects she was having trouble in. He really does have the students’ best interest in mind.”

After the talk, a light meal was served and Dinkins greeted parents.

“The biggest challenge will be getting the students and teachers buying into a new philosophy,” Dinkins said afterward. “The previous principal was here for 14 years. There will be changes in direction after 14 years.”

Bond Mill Elementary School welcomes new acting principal

Ursula Golladay is no stranger to Bond Mill Elementary School.

During the 2018-19 school year, Golladay shadowed then-principal Justin Fitzerald for one month as part of the Prince George’s County Resident Principal Program before taking charge for the six months Fitzgerald was working elsewhere within the program.

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She was named acting principal when Fitzgerald took a position in another county.

“The community is really open ... and behind me,” Gollady said. “It’s a challenge to follow after someone else who has been here 15 years.”

Golladay hopes to maintain the school’s good reputation, which she credits to a supportive, active school community. She plans to bring the school’s technology up to speed with both the students and the staff.

“I want it used more in the classroom and between ourselves [the staff],” Golladay said.

Golladay also wants to expand the school’s Arts Integration program, which began last year and encourages student creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking in all subjects using creative methods, according to the Prince George’s County Public School website.

“I’m a planner and I’ve got a lot of plans put in place,” Golladay said. “As long as plans go as planned, we’re OK.”

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