In and around town, you may have met Park School’s newest Lower School Principal, Malika DeLancey. As a mom, a principal, and a tireless advocate for the children of Baltimore, she’s a woman of many talents. We caught up with Malika to learn more about her role at Park, and her love of making kids laugh.
Chatting with Malika DeLancey, Lower School Principal at The Park School
Tell us a little bit about your experiences working in Baltimore schools. What drew you to Park?
I have had the pleasure of working with independent, public, and religious schools in Baltimore — there are talented, hard-working students and teachers everywhere. My biggest takeaway from working in education is, that at the end of the day, love and joy still reign supreme. There will always be work to be done, but if we focus on the children, it always comes back to love and joy.
I was drawn to Park because of our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and our rigorous and innovative curriculum. Given the challenges we are facing in today’s society, it’s pretty obvious that we need to be proficient cross-cultural communicators and creative problem solvers. If we teach our students that their voices matter, they won’t be afraid to share. Who knows where the next ingenious idea will come from?
What does a regular day look like for you?
My children attend Park, so they ride to school with me. We talk through the schedule for the day and sing along with the radio every morning. When I get to work, I spend time greeting kids in the hallways and checking in with our amazing Lower School office staff. There are meetings, and emails, but my favorite moments of the day involve casual conversations with students and their families, and I make space in my day, every day, for this to happen.
After the students have gone home, teachers often stop by my office. We problem solve together, and celebrate the successes of the day. I am
continually impressed by the teachers in Park’s Lower School. There is no limit to what these folks will do for their students. When I get home, my family will have dinner and conversation together. My husband and I like to watch reruns of our favorite comedy shows right before bed.
What are some of your greatest “aha” moments that you’ve had since you began at Park?
I’ve realized that there are often many right answers to a problem, and prioritizing joy is never a mistake! Also, stepping outside for some fresh air, even if just for a minute, is good for the mind and body.
When you’re not at work, where would we most likely find you?
You’ll find me reading on my sofa or at one of my children’s sporting events.
You seem to wear a lot of hats, both in school, and around the Baltimore community. Tell us a little bit about your involvement in other community organizations.
I am very passionate about my work with Middle Grades Partnership. (I am a career independent school educator, but my mother and both of my grandmothers taught in Baltimore city public schools.) The program facilitates collaboration between eight partnerships, and each partnership is comprised of one public school and one independent school (Park partners with Afya Public Charter School). The program brings together students from both schools during the school year and for 150 hours of summer programming focusing on reading, writing, and Algebra. Teachers from both school settings collaborate to create meaningful academic and social experiences for all students involved. I served as a teacher, an independent school site director, and am now a board member. I’ve been involved with Middle Grades Partnership for 12 years, and I hope to continue to be involved for many more years.
I am also a member of the Baltimore Chapter of Jack and Jill, Incorporated, which is an organization of mothers who are committed to nurturing future African-American leaders by strengthening children through leadership development, service, philanthropic giving, and civic engagement. The service component is especially important to me and my family. I also enjoy just spending time with other moms.
Tell us something unusual or funny about yourself.
I dance and sing/rap with my 11-year-old twins almost daily. In case you’re wondering, I am not a particularly good dancer or singer, but I love making my kids laugh.
What is your prediction for your future self at Park? What are some of your major professional goals?
Ironically, my goal is to be a better student. I want to be a keen observer and a better listener. I want to stay current regarding best practices, while meeting the needs of each individual learner in the Lower School. I want to take advantage of technological advances, while never losing the personal touch.
This is my second year as Lower School principal at Park, and I’m now in a place where my vision for the Lower School is clear: a rigorous academic program fueled by data and student interest, a social-emotional learning curriculum with a focus on identity, and an abundance of joy that all constituents find hard to resist. Park’s Lower School was in a great place when I arrived, so my job is to continue to refine and innovate within an already strong program.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of our School Spotlight Series. Each week, we spotlight our partner schools to give you a glimpse into what learning looks like on their campus. To learn more about The Park School, visit their directory listing in our Independent School Directory. Images were provided by the school. Want to become a school partner? Email us.