Harambee Elementary Principal's Message

I am humbled by the opportunity I’ve been tasked with. The task of leading a group of professionals towards one common goal, around the one common idea that all students can and will learn. I know it sounds cliché, but it is our charge none-the-less. A charge that we must handle with great care, because they will learn. The question is, “What will they learn?”

As a young, black boy growing up in the public education system of St. Paul I learned a few things. I learned that my teachers were not gonna look like me. That, according to the textbooks, my place in history was at the end of some overseer’s whip, and that no matter how hard I tried I would never be “created equal." These lessons were instilled in me by the very same adults who were charged with making sure I learned. Not all of them happened in the classroom you see. Some of these lessons derived from the expectations my teachers held for me.

As I got older I learned a few more things. I learned that even though my teachers wouldn’t always look like me, they still held a great deal of knowledge that I could tap into. That some of them genuinely cared, expected me to excel, and wanted me to know just who I was. I think about the Grahams, a husband and wife team of ELA teachers who taught me the art of essay writing and capturing the audience. I’ll never forget the time Mr. Graham gave me flowers for Secretary Day. I was serving as his student aide and he just wanted to let me know he cared. I think about the first time I was able to take an African American history class. How it was taught by a white man, and how he helped me redefine my place in history. No longer a slave to conditions, now a leader of transition.

The power that my teachers held over what I learned was undeniable. We, here at Harambee, hold that same power over our students. We have the power to change minds and change lives. We have the power to close gaps and open doors. We have the power to free souls or to hold them in bondage. It’s a power that when focused in the right direction can yield amazing results. It’s the power of expectation.

Students will rise to the level of expectation. But we must set those expectations high. For it is better to set the bar high and not reach it, than to set the bar low and attain it. For in the process of reaching for that high bar we are sure to find ourselves achieving more than we thought we ever could.

So we will set the bar high. We will set the bar high on behavior and expect that our students will show respect for us, for each other, and for themselves. We will set the bar high for rigor and expect that our students will immerse themselves in the promise of learning. We will set the bar high on effort and expect nothing less than 100% from our students. And we will set the bar high on performance, and expect that every student is ready, able, and confident enough to perform at the levels we expect them to. Not only will we expect these things from our students, we must expect these very same things from ourselves. For when we expect from ourselves, what we expect from others, the possibility for amazing results takes life and becomes real. So real you can hold it in your hand, you can touch it, you can feel it, you can predict it.

As we enter a new school year, a fresh beginning, let's hold each other accountable for setting the bar high for ourselves. Let’s set the bar high for our own behaviors. Let’s expect that each of us will model respect and integrity. Let’s expect that each of us will challenge our students regardless of what they look like, where they come from, or how they enter our classrooms. Let’s expect each other to come prepared with rich lessons, that not only address the standards, but raises the standard for learning. Let’s expect that everything we do, everything we say, everything we plan, everything we model, and everything we teach, we do so intentionally. We do it with the mindset of “What do they need to know?”, “What do they need to grow?”. Because our students will learn. The question is “What will they learn?”

Please contact me with any questions or concerns. I would love to hear from you!  I can be reached at 651-379-2501 or delon.smith@isd623.org.


Delon Smith
Harambee Principal