Oakland's twin principals' single focus
Carolyn Jones; San Francisco Chronicle
Ronald and Reginald Richardson, 36, who share the job as co-principals at Claremont Middle School, wave to parents at the start of another day. The identical twins, Oakland natives, come from a family of educators.Considering skipping class or chewing gum at Claremont Middle School in Oakland? Think twice.
Principal Reggie Richardson is sure to catch you. Or wait, maybe it's Ron Richardson. Could be either. The identical twins are co-principals of the Rockridge school, and almost no one can tell them apart.
That means twice the discipline, twice the smiles ... and twice the inspiration.
"We definitely work as a team -" said Reggie.
"- with the same vision of respect and high expectations," Ron continued, as the pair took a brief break recently. "The students see us together, working well and respecting each other, and hopefully it sets a standard for the whole school."
So far, it appears to. Claremont, which had four principals last year, is on an upswing since the district hired the Richardson brothers last summer. Parents and staff say morale is up, grades are improving and behavior problems are down.
"The Richardsons have been excellent. There's a huge difference in the school culture," said Paul Kagiwada, father of a seventh-grader at Claremont. "It's cleaner, nicer, quieter. There's an expectation of respect at all levels. It's the total opposite of last year."
District officials are thrilled with the turnaround at Claremont, which is in the heart of one of Oakland's most desirable neighborhoods but for years has lagged academically. As a result, most families in the neighborhood have opted for private schools or other schools in the district.
But that's starting to change, officials said.
"The Richardsons are a breath of fresh air. They have really invigorated the spirit of that school," said district spokesman Troy Flint. "The atmosphere there has improved dramatically. We're hopeful that soon Claremont will be a school of choice for the neighborhood."
Setting an exampleFor the Richardsons, 36, change begins with smart attire, common courtesy and a strong work ethic. Hoping to set an example for the school's 410 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, the Richardsons wear suits and ties every day, address students by name, and show up at 7 a.m. to greet families as they arrive.
"When we set foot on campus, these become our children," Reggie explained. "We build relationships with them as individuals. We know their names, their likes and dislikes. We want them to feel safe and supported. If they don't, they'll have a hard time succeeding academically."
The brothers, Oakland natives, have education in their genes. Their grandmother was a principal at an Oakland public elementary school, and their mother - who attended Claremont - was a longtime teacher in Oakland Unified.
The women instilled them with a love of teaching and of their community, Reggie said. When the brothers were kids, they were constantly organizing neighborhood games, making sure to include the misfits and stragglers, he said. They also volunteered at local elementary schools, with the hope of helping kids who may have been struggling.
Shared paths"We both have this passion for leading," Reggie said. "Teaching was a natural fit for us. Fortunately, me and my brother had identical goals."
After graduating from high school, the pair attended San Francisco State University on track and field scholarships, leading the Gators to their first victory in decades over rival UC Davis.
They both earned teaching credentials, then master's degrees in education from UC Berkeley. Before coming to Claremont, they served as principals at neighboring elementary schools in Richmond.
They rarely disagree, and they never get sick of each other, they said.
But finally working together, at Claremont, is their dream job, they said. The district hired them as co-principals and eliminated the assistant principal positions, making the move cost-neutral, so the office staff now consists of a secretary, an attendance clerk and the Richardson brothers.
They spend their days handling the budget and schedule, helping teachers, meeting with parents and community members, disciplining misbehaving students and roaming the halls and playground with plenty of handshakes and pats on the back.
"This is the chance of a lifetime, to work with my brother. We are both really committed to Oakland," Ron said. "We're committed not just to education, but we want to inspire and change lives."
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Oakland-s-twin-principals-single-focus-4142771.php#ixzz2G0dyc8DP