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Camden principal Dr. William Hayes on building relationships, school climate + teamwork

Dr. William Hayes, the second-year principal at East Camden Middle, knows it isn’t going to be easy—but it would be hard to tell being around him. Walking around East Camden, now in its second year as a renaissance school (partnerships between charter schools and the Camden City School District), Dr. Hayes walks with a casual ease that might make you think the job of running a school is a breeze. Much of that is likely due to Dr. Hayes’ upbringing though; he hails from the south after all, born and raised in Hartsville, SC. A hometown with less than 10,000 people where half the town is black and nearly a quarter of the population below the poverty line, it would be easy to see how Dr. Hayes might feel at home here in Camden. So as we walked East Camden Middle, you can see the ways that the school has already taken after the leader’s demeanor: calm, thoughtful and social.

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The long walk

Before we moved to the nearby Ewing suburb outside of Trenton, NJ, my younger sister and I often walked home from school back to the rowhome we lived in. Those walks, about a five-block trek from Bethany Lutheran School, the small private school we attended, was about 5 blocks from our rowhome in Trenton. The nearest neighborhood school was Stokes Elementary; I know this because Stokes was on our path home every time we walked. It was two blocks from our house, and on warm days when we all walked home, those kids would join us on the sidewalk, seemingly matching my sister and I stride for stride.