I met Kim Dacres ’08 on a rainy afternoon at the Democracy Prep Middle School in East Harlem. As we climbed the four flights of stairs to her office, one thing became very clear: Dacres has a lot of energy. While I labored up the narrow stairwell, Dacres was bounding ahead, taking the steps two or three at a time. When we reached the landing, she gave me a chair and hurried into a classroom to finish instructing the teaching staff in a step dance routine for their upcoming back-to-school assembly.
In many respects Dacres does not fit the mold of the traditional principal. Growing up, Dacres remembers all of her principals as old, white men. She’s a twenty-eight-year-old, black woman from the Bronx.
Her style of leadership is also unique. Rather than hide away in an office, Dacres is a mainstay in the classroom. “I’m never in my office. My job is to be in the classroom and give feedback on how teachers can manage the class better – how they can structure lessons better and frame questions in a way that will spark students.”
Dacres’ life revolves around the school. Even when she’s not in the building, she’s thinking about ways to better serve the students. Last year she worked with friends in the city to introduce rugby as an activity at recess. The year before, she organized an afterschool step dance program.
With students, Dacres takes it upon herself to develop meaningful relationships and draws energy from her ability to be a consistent figure in their lives. “Every time a student calls me after hours and asks me for help – knowing that I can be a trusted advisor for students – I live for that.”