The beaches are still full. Dedicated fans fill Camden Yards. Snowball stands have a steady stream of people. Fall is not in the air. Yet in the lone halls of schools across Baltimore, someone lingers and hardly ever sits still. These former lawyers, yoga instructors, army captains, and marathoners exchanged their disguises to become true super people – – Principals. In an almost impossible feat, I was able to win over the fierce guardians —the secretaries— of these super people and conduct some candid interviews with four principals across Baltimore City and County as they flew in their orbit putting out fires and getting ready for their school community. I’ll be sharing the interviews over the next week on (cool) progeny.

Meet our first principal: Matthew Hornbeck!

Matthew Hornbeck
Hampstead Hill Academy (Canton)

Former Life
Lawyer with a focus on education.

Aside from your principal duties what other hats have you worn to help run your school?
Pick up trash.

What is the stinkiest job you have done as a principal?
A “Canton mouse” died in the bushes by the side of our school. Students smelled it and came to get me. It was after hours and the custodians were gone. I put gloves on and removed the 9-inch rat.

What is the sweetest part of your job?
Being a principal is the best blend of policy and direct service. It is a lot of meetings solving problems for families. I also enjoy reading to kindergarteners and watching the excitement and joy kids have as they create relationships.

Are there any unique skills you have that your staff or students may not know about?
I can juggle. I also ran seven marathons- 3 Marine Corp Marathons and 4 Boston Marathons.

What do you do to get yourself revved up for the year?
I like to travel and hike all over the world with my family. We have hiked in England, Italy, Austria, and Canada.

If you had to pick two welcome back songs one for your staff and one for the students, which would they be?
I would have to look at the lyrics closely but probably one song that is exciting and motivating for the staff and one that is peppy and loving for the students.

What organizational strategies have you kept as a principal that you used as a teacher?
It is important to build relationships among staff and students. We have restorative circles where students get to know each other and have a built-in process for problem solving that focuses on community listening and problem solving. This also works for staff to get to know each other and solve issues. All our faculty and staff are trained in this practice.

How do you get your teacher’s revved up for the coming year?
Set very clear expectations and procedures. Have clear schedules and high expectations. We also have a kickball game between staff at the beginning of the year and partner up with local restaurants for the first week so we can have breakfast and lunch as a team and continue strengthening our community.

While most teachers and students are off for the summer what are you doing?
This is a 12-month position and outside of a short vacation, I am working all year. We hold enrichment, child-care, and STEM summer camps. During the summer we also take care of major maintenance like new ceiling tiles. It is also when I am looking for additional or new staff and hold multiple meetings geared toward our future goals. We are looking to expand in the future to another building.

What is your favorite back to school or principal memory? Now?
My principal in West Baltimore Middle School was Jerelle Francois. I was new and she took me under her wing. She kept in touch with me through high school and college, as she herself became assistant superintendent and School Board commissioner. She has been my mentor for 47 years even now that she is retired.

If you had to play for the Orioles or the Ravens, which would you choose?
I am a baseball fan. I used to play first base in little league. I like the pace, the excitement, and the weather of the baseball season. I also like that more people can see baseball live because it is more affordable.

Hampstead Hill Academy is a preschool through middle public charter school located at 500 S. Linwood Avenue. 


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