Spend any amount of time at Clarke Street School and you will quickly notice two women who are extremely active in taking care of anything and everything that could help a school run smoothly- Head Principal Shunda Davis and Assistant Principal Erika Minzlaff.  

Ms. Davis and Ms. Minzlaff are the first to enter the building every morning and the last to leave at the end of the school day. They begin each day standing outside of the cafeteria, greeting every scholar who enters Clarke Street School. After breakfast, my favorite part of the day, personalized announcements from Ms. Davis are heard on the speaker. Ms. Davis addresses the entire school over the loudspeaker with pep, letting scholars know what lunch will be, singing her own special birthday jingle to whoever is celebrating that day, and wraps it all up with setting a goal or intention for everyone to strive towards. While this takes place, Ms. Minzlaff has already begun making her rounds, attending to any classroom or single scholar who might be in need of attention.  

Throughout the day you will find both of these women running around the school, bringing assistance wherever they are needed. This can appear as holding meetings with parents, addressing whole class conflicts, or simply providing an ear or meditative space in one of their offices for whoever might need to step away from the hustle and bustle of a classroom.  

At one point in the school year, my class was facing re-occurring problems with bullying. Ms. Davis came to our classroom and spent thirty minutes helping our scholars understand what it meant to treat people right. She also explained to them the power and implications their words and actions can have if used against someone.  

In the beginning of the year, Ms. Minzlaff devoted her weekend to creating a portfolio for new teachers who were having trouble implementing order and organization into their lessons. She then spent that week co-teaching each class to make sure each teacher was comfortable and each classroom was set up to be successful. These are just a couple of examples that highlight the commitment of leadership at Clarke Street School. 

Both of these women are deeply committed to seeing their scholars do well and be successful. They both never fail to give as much time and attention that is needed to fully and completely address any issues.  

Clarke Street School and I are so fortunate to have two amazing leaders to look up to each day, modeling that strength, compassion, flexibility, and order are all simultaneously possible. Thank you, Ms. Davis and Ms. Minzlaff for your commitment to this school and each and every one of the scholars who attend it!

Article written by Tierney O'Brien, City Year Milwaukee AmeriCorps member proudly serving on The Northwestern Mutual Team at Clarke Street School

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