BY LAUREN FLYNN KELLY — Hyattsville Elementary School’s new principal, Teresa Bey, wants us to know she’s not here by accident. Having worked in the Prince George’s County Public School system for the last 12 years as a teacher, a math specialist and most recently, assistant principal at Carrollton Elementary School, Bey was already interviewing at another PG County school when the deputy superintendent placed her in Hyattsville. And she’s “honored to be here,” Bey told the parents, students and staff members who packed the school’s cafeteria on Aug. 11.

Effective Aug. 1, Bey replaced Julia Burton, who has spent the last four years as HES principal and took a job closer to her home. The transition came as a surprise to many parents, who learned they were getting a new principal just a few weeks before school starts on Aug. 22. But judging by the size of the crowd at the meet-and-greet and the applause that followed many of Bey’s remarks, they were encouraged by her positive outlook for the school.  

More than 60 parents and their children joined several HES staff members and Board of Education member Dinora Hernandez at the event sponsored by the HES Parent Teacher Association (PTA). “You guys were really curious about this new principal, right?” Hernandez said, as she looked around in awe of the large crowd.

The self-proclaimed “Brooklyn-strong educator,” Bey said she was working as a paralegal in New York when she was inspired to pursue a master’s degree in education from Hunter College. She took her first teaching job in one of the toughest neighborhoods in her native Brooklyn, where she said students “came with the willingness to learn and because [of that] I was willing to go there and duck bullets if I had to to make sure they were learning.” Bey and her family, which include husband Kareem, adult sons Ivan and Kareem, and teenage daughter Tamia, relocated to Prince George’s County in 2004.

Bey also shared her “preliminary” vision for the school, which is based not only on county goals, but on what she has seen and heard thus far from the community. One key goal is to ensure that all students are “literate learners,” meaning they aren’t just able to read but can use the information they’re learning in a meaningful way. And she says she’ll work to achieve that goal through a focus on “culture, data and performance.” In other words, she said she wants to use “different types of data” such as attendance records to determine how students learn and why they may not be performing in certain areas. Moreover, she said she wants to increase the involvement of parents and other community partners, and continue to bring more arts into the curriculum. “The building is full of artwork,” she observed. “While assessing the needs of this building, I’m going to see what I can do to make sure that we have more arts integration.”

That was a message that resonated with parents. “Continuing the arts is great. I think that was something that Ms. Burton did a lot for and sacrificed a lot for in terms of the budget to make that happen. So it sounds like that’s going to be played through, and that’s great because that’s what we all want,” said parent Lee Cain. “And I think one of the other things that’s really encouraging is how many people are here tonight.”

Joe Ludes, another parent and a former public school teacher who is on the city’s Education Advisory Committee, said one concern he hopes Bey will share with parents and address is the poor condition of the building, a matter that the PTA has put before the city council. “She’s just getting here, she hasn’t been a principal before anywhere, and I think having been an assistant principal, I’m sure she knows what she’s walking into, but she [still] has to get to the know the teachers and the community and the kids,” he added.