Spotlight on Kelly Miller Principal Kortni Stafford.
Kortni Stafford never planned to be an educator.
The principal, now entering her sixth year at Kelly Miller Middle School, grew up with a passion for biology and animal sciences and had planned to become a veterinarian. But after finishing college, she decided that veterinary school wasn’t for her, and began searching for a new career path.
“My mom is a retired teacher from DC Public Schools (DCPS),” Stafford explains. “At the time, she was still teaching and she’s like, ‘Oh, why don’t you apply to be a teacher?’ I applied for Prince George’s County Public Schools and a week later, I got hired as a science teacher. I’ve just loved education ever since, and I haven’t looked back.”
Stafford’s love for her students carried her from her role as a mid-year teaching hire to her current role as principal at Kelly Miller, where building relationships with students and their families is her first priority. Kelly Miller has been a Flamboyan partner school for the entirety of Principal Stafford’s tenure, and she is committed to ensuring that the school’s family engagement practices establish parents as true partners in decision-making. While she is proud that her staff has bought into doing high-quality home visits, she also encourages them to think of this practice as merely the first step in establishing trust and open communication with families. “This is the start of a relationship,” Principal Stafford says. “An area that I’d like to focus on is getting more parents involved in the actual operations of the school and our school goals, and what we have going on to make Kelly Miller better.”
In her mission to create an environment where parents feel valued and heard, Principal Stafford has focused her team’s efforts on creating a positive and welcoming school culture. She has ensured that families are receiving frequent communication, from newsletters to bi-weekly phone calls, to build trust and establish a two-way relationship. “We want to get parents to engage where they feel comfortable to say, ‘Hey, this is what I’m happy with’ or ‘This is what I need.’ And if they have a concern, I want them to be heard and provide the best solution to meet whatever concerns they have. It’s not just us telling, asking – it’s them telling and asking as well, and we’re working together to meet our school goals.”
Principal Stafford also strives to ensure that, in addition to feeling safe and welcome at Kelly Miller, families view the school as a resource that can support them and their children with needs beyond academics. Kelly Miller recently joined DCPS’ Connected Schools model, which aims to turn schools into resource hubs that provide myriad services to students and families, including things like yoga classes, monthly free groceries, and college awareness programs. Principal Stafford is also working to create a Parent University, which will provide parenting resources geared toward families of middle schoolers. “We have a whole resource guide for families, so they can look and see what opportunities we have in the building that they may want their child to be enrolled in,” she adds.
Ultimately, Principal Stafford is fueled by her love for students that initially inspired her post-college career change. The work she does at Kelly Miller to support and empower families comes back to the well-being of the students she serves every day. “My students are awesome,” she enthuses. “I want them to know that their families are welcome here. Families and interacting with them means that their child has been supported, and that we’re meeting their needs.”