Jamie Green has been balancing identities all his life, it seems.
And yet the new principal of Gainesville High is rooted true in the local community in his actions and words — even if the native of the United Kingdom retains a sturdy accent and hasn’t quite grasped the phrase “y’all.”
“I’ve always been fascinated with America and American history,” said Green, who became a United States citizen in 2011. “I’m proud to be an American citizen. It was a really proud day for me and my family.”
Green, 37, arrives at GHS from Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, where he served as academic dean.
Former Gainesville Principal Tom Smith retired at the end of the 2017-18 academic year.
It’s a short move for Green, but a long way from private school back to public school.
“I found a home at Riverside for a short while,” he said. “And that’s a great school with a great mission. But I felt the draw back to public education.”
Green served a short stint in the Corps of Royal Marines in the UK before his time was cut short by a medical injury.
“At that point, I had to decide what I wanted to do with my life,” he said.
Green was the first member of his family to graduate high school and college. Education was always a priority in his family.
“I had parents that valued education, but the circumstances, at that point in time, led them down a different path,” he said.
But his upbringing manifested in adulthood as a desire to teach.
“I always felt that calling,” Green said. “I felt I would be able to give that to others, particularly in a public school setting.”
Prior to his four years at Riverside, Green had worked for 10 years in teaching and administrative roles in Boston, where he had first arrived from the UK to attend Tufts University nearby.
“Mr. Green’s experience at Riverside and inner-city Boston caught our attention immediately,” Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams said in an email. “Through the School Governance Council interview and the student interviews, it was very clear that Mr. Green was able to connect to all of our stakeholders while raising the expectation for all of our students.”
Growing up in a completely different educational system taught Green the best of both worlds.
For example, in the UK, students in public schools begin preparing for a career pathway at a younger age than is typical in the United States, where a broader, rounded educational experience is often given more value.
Green studied the French Revolution for two years in a high school history curriculum on his way to undergraduate degrees in international politics and economics.
“I realized that there are probably some things I missed out on,” he said.
Still, students at the home of the Red Elephants have embraced work-based learning and dual-enrollment programs that allow them to get a jump-start on higher education or technical training.
“We nurture that holistic education, but then you allow for opportunities for students to really pursue their interests ... and really develop their talents,” Green said. “We’re making sure our students are ready for a very different reality than you and I entered into.”
Green said he has invested in Gainesville with his wife, Glaucimone, who teaches fourth grade at World Language Academy in Hall County, and their young daughter and son.
This investment means building relationships with students, parents and the wider school community.
“We will only be able to positively impact the lives of students through building relationships, and Mr. Green’s attributes align with what we are accomplishing as a district,” Williams said.
The health of a local public school can be both a symptom and a cause of success in the community, Green said, and there are many reasons why students achieve or fail.
From quality instruction, developing faculty, allowing creativity and engagement in the classroom while ensuring equity for all students, and opening the doors to outside factors are all critical components, Green said.
“So what can we do as a school to support students in nontraditional ways?” Green asked.
One example is the addition of “wraparound” services for students, which officials with Gainesville City Schools have worked to implement this year.
These services could include expanding counseling, adding a clothing closet or food pantry inside schools, and developing new academic mentors.
And it doesn’t hurt to find committed teachers, staff and parents “to pull the very best out of these kids,” Green said.
“We’re starting to make progress,” he added. “Go Big Red!”