Former Principal, David T. Howard Middle School
Mr. Kevin Maxwell believes that equity ensures that every student has an equal chance to succeed. Furthermore, he says that equipping students with the right tools has long-lasting impacts that empower students to live lives abundant with possibilities. Within the first few days of stepping into his role as Principal of David T. Howard Middle School, Mr. Maxwell invited his staff to participate in various equity awareness activities and exercises. Four years later, he makes it a priority to have equity-centered dialogues with them and when candidates apply for positions at Howard, questions about equity are an important part of the hiring process.
“With every decision we make, we are thinking about equity. Equity is not on the agenda, it is the agenda,” he emphasized.
David T. Howard Middle School differs from other schools in the district in that it has a diverse population of staff and students in regards to ethnicity, socioeconomic status and sexual orientation. In addition to engaging his staff in conversations about equity, he also engages the students through school-wide reads featuring books that explore topics such as diversity, race and antiracism.
Creating equitable classrooms is one area that Mr. Maxwell continues to be intentional about. Although the school has a large gifted population, the majority of the students in those classes are white. To increase the diversity within that setting, he divided the classes into clusters to meet the needs of all students.
As a champion for all students, Mr. Maxwell works to establish spaces where students feel valued and have a strong sense of belonging. For example, many of the white students bring their own lunches, a majority of the Black students would get in line to get their lunch and by the time these students were prepared to take their seats, there would only be one or two available seats at each table which often alienated them from their friends.
To change that, he and his team increased the number of lunch breaks for sixth, seventh and eighth graders from three to six so these students would have more of the cafeteria.
“If you don’t look at things through an equity lens, issues intensify and remain unsolved,” he said.
Mr. Maxwell spoke briefly about David T. Howard Middle School’s legacy.
“There have been brilliant leaders come through this school such as Martin Luther King Jr., Former Mayor of Atlanta, Maynard Jackson, and Mr. David T. Howard himself. Being in this building adds to our sense of this equity work because of the alumni who have walked these halls,” he said.
In closing, Mr. Maxwell added, “The only way for social mobility in America is through education and if we don’t focus on equity, then we cannot do everything we can for all students.”