At Home at Oscar DePriest Elementary School
Latasha Geverola may be new to the role of principal, but she isn’t new to Oscar DePriest Elementary School. Fifteen years ago, Latasha began her career teaching sixth grade at DePriest. After two years, she left to teach computer courses to high schoolers, but missed her old community. So when Principal Minnie Watson was looking for someone to implement a new middle school model, Latasha jumped at the chance to return.
Latasha says she did not quite know what she was getting into, but was excited to use her background in literacy as DePriest’s seventh and eighth grade reading teacher. The new middle school institution also proved quite successful. Latasha reports: “students started to really make the growth we needed them to make.” She presented the middle school model to Chicago Public Schools leaders and was hired as an Assistant Principal in a high school. “I remember saying to Ms. Watson, ‘I’ll be back,’” Latasha says of her second departure from DePriest. Just three short years later, Latasha found her way back to DePriest.
Upon leaving her position as Assistant Principal, Latasha jumped into the world of Middle School International Baccalaureate (IB) and was again hired at DePriest as the IB coordinator. “I knew nothing about IB, except that it really filled the gaps for students that either didn’t fit into AP (Advanced Placement) or CTE (Career and Technical Education) − it was like this other world.” While it was challenging “to get the community to understand the good that would come out of IB,” Latasha had no problem getting Minnie Watson’s buy-in. She built DePriest’s Middle Years Program for IB from “the ground up.” It was a huge success, bringing the program to “an environment that didn’t know much about IB.”
As Assistant Principal at DePriest, Latasha continued deepening her relationship with Minnie. As she prepared to retire, Minnie knew Latasha was on the district’s list of potential principals. “I came back [last] fall, and it was like I had this new box of responsibilities,” says Latasha. Minnie “allowed me to experience things she was going through as a principal so that I had a person to talk through that process with,” she explains.
Now, Latasha is “stepping into some big shoes,” taking over as principal at DePriest. She knows “having that assurance and quick feedback” from Minnie last year will serve her well. It was “the best thing she could have done for me,” Latasha said.
This year, Latasha is most looking forward to helping her school grow. “I hope to continue digging into that data, enhancing the teachers’ crafts and really encouraging the school community to come together,” she says. Long-term, Latasha “would like to build DePriest up to be the community school that everybody wants to attend. I want it to draw people to the community, because a school can do that,” she states.
“There’s no other work like this on the planet,” Latasha says of being a school leader. With an attitude like this, we are sure her dreams of growth at DePriest will come true.