Principal Named MCPS Finalist for Washington Post Award
Jennifer Lowndes, who has been principal of Rock Creek Forest Elementary School since 2012, has been named a finalist for The Washington Post Principal of the Year.
Lowndes is known for being enthusiastic, accessible, an engaged listener and a committed student advocate. She lives and breathes the message: People Matter. Many colleagues and parents call her the ‘rock’ of Rock Creek Forest. She opens car doors and welcomes students during morning arrival. She is consistently in classrooms overseeing teaching and learning. She creates a culture in which every student, parent and staff member feels appreciated, valued and vested in the school’s success.
She is masterful at fostering creativity and encouraging innovation for students and staff. For example, she helped the Spanish immersion staff organize a Skype conversation with Spanish-speaking students in other countries so students could get a real-world opportunity to practice their skills. In another example, she allowed the PTA to bring in an artist from Maine to teach students about the mandala. This resulted in a whole-school permanent art piece, which remains on display at the school.
Rock Creek Forest is home to several educational programs, including the Spanish Immersion Program, the neighborhood English Academy, the Autism Program and the Pre-K Program. Lowndes has unified the school into a cooperative and dynamic learning environment for its 735 students and 120 staff members.
She tackles challenges with aplomb. She guided the school through a recent middle school boundary study, and went through a complete renovation, which required an 18-month relocation to a temporary holding school.
Lowndes proactively includes stakeholders in her decision-making process, welcoming new ideas and addressing concerns. She works collaboratively and in partnership with groups to benefit students and staff. For instance, she has worked to improve participation from the Latino community by hosting monthly morning coffees. Lowndes, who speaks fluent Spanish, attends almost all of the meetings. Her engagement has paid off, with last year’s participation rate among Latino families hitting an all-time high of 85 percent, with more families supporting teachers in the classroom, on field trips and with after-school activities. She has also promoted the Honoring Our Elders program, which invites in senior citizens to share personal stories of growing up in America during the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s. She helped form a partnership with the National Wildlife Federation’s U.S.-Taiwan Eco Partnership Program, which uses project-based learning to focus on sustainability topics such as energy, water, climate change and school gardens.
Lowndes began her career in education as a bilingual instructor in the Los Angeles public school system in 1990. She relocated to the Washington, D.C., area in 1993, and worked as a Spanish immersion teacher and as an administrator in accelerated and enriched instruction, before being named an assistant principal and principal. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Brown University, and a master’s degree in education administration from Johns Hopkins University.