CharterFolk X, Vol 16 – Jerel Bryant, Bringing the Best to Students by Knowing a Community Well

Good morning, CharterFolk.

Today it is my great pleasure to recognize Jerel Bryant, Principal of G.W. Carver High School in New Orleans, Louisiana as CharterFolk Extraordinaire.

Word about Jerel’s extraordinary leadership has been getting around. Earlier this fall, Jerel was recognized as Louisiana’s High School Principal of the Year.

In February, he was recognized by Teach For America’s Collective National Advisory Board.

I hope you might find a minute to view Jerel’s comments at the TFA award ceremony about his mission to “bring the best” to the 9th Ward in New Orleans by modeling how “to come out the other side” of struggles even “better than we were before.”

The story of G.W. Carver High School’s success in recent years is one of an entire community coming out of the other side even better than it was before.

Carver was one of the school campuses that was destroyed during Katrina.

It would not be until eleven years later that Carver’s new facility would be completed. In the interim, the school had to operate out of temporary classrooms. At various points, Carver alumni feared the school might never actually be re-opened. In 2012, some were gravely concerned when Carver began to be operated by Collegiate Academies.

That’s when Jerel was named principal.

Ultimately, Jerel’s “homework” led him to come to understand his entire school community at a fundamentally deeper level.

It’s emblematic of the story I have heard every person mention about Jerel since I first started doing the research to write this piece – how they are struck by the fact that Jerel knows by name literally every one of the nearly 1000 students who now attend Carver.

In fact, it goes beyond that. As Stacy Martin, Collegiate Academies’ Chief External Affairs Officer, describes it:

Not only does Jerel know every student’s name and nickname, he knows the names of everyone in every student’s family.

Caroline Roemer, Executive Director of the Louisiana Public Charter School Association, shared:

In all my long career working in charter schools, never have I seen another leader surpass the commitment that Jerel Bryant brings at Carver High to know, honor and uplift an entire community. It’s yet another thing that makes him as compelling a leader as anyone I know.

It’s that spirit of knowing an entire community that has enabled Jerel to help Carver overcome many challenges …

…moving into their new campus in 2016 …

Jerel speaking at the new campus’s ribbon-cutting

… successfully merging two academies back into one …

Jerel explaining the 2016 decision to merge the two academies

… working through the heartbreaking incidents of gun violence that have affected the school …

… surmounting the COVID crisis that has disproportionately affected the Carver community …

… all the while generating academic outcomes with students beyond anything that Carver had achieved before throughout its long and illustrious history. In 2019, as this article reports:

Carver “had the highest percentage of students demonstrating top growth in math of any open-enrollment high school serving all grades 9-12 in New Orleans.” 

It’s the story of an entire school community coming out the other side even better than it was before.

At the heart of it is an amazing leader showing that knowing a community deeply has been the irreplaceable first step allowing “the very best” to be brought to the students of the 9th Ward.

Indeed, it’s what allows the very best to be brought to every community.

It’s why we couldn’t be happier than to recognize Jerel Bryant here as a stunning example of CharterFolk Extraordinaire.