Previously: The day after her wedding, Jallon Brown finally hired a desperately needed math teacher for her new school. To catch up on previous episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.
Jallon Brown stands at the edge of the parking lot when the school bus groans to a halt. Inside, about 40 fifth-graders are squealing and shouting. Jallon steps aboard.
"Boys and girls," she says loudly, causing a hush to descend among the children who have just arrived for their first day at KIPP Harbor Academy, a new publicly funded charter school outside Annapolis. One boy ignores Jallon and keeps yapping.
"I'm going to try it again," the 31-year-old principal says a bit louder, head cocked and hands on her hips. Now even the yapper closes his mouth as Jallon invites her pupils to quietly exit the bus. As they do, she shakes the hand of each student, including Keyshon Pindell, 11, who walks with a buoyant shuffle, though he says that he lay awake the previous night, jittery but eager.
Keyshon is exactly the kind of kid that Jallon wants at KIPP Harbor, part of a network of schools launched by the nonprofit Knowledge Is Power Program to serve low-income students. In Washington and Baltimore, KIPP middle schools have made impressive gains in math and reading scores, in part by teaching students from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and having them attend school on many Saturdays and in the summer.
Last year Keyshon attended Georgetown East Elementary School in Annapolis, a stone's throw from the small apartment where he lives with his sister and his mother, Lakeshia Hooper. At Georgetown East, Keyshon was reading below grade level and often had discipline problems, his mother says. "He was falling through the cracks," says Hooper, 29, who works at an assisted living facility.
She heard about KIPP Harbor last year at the recreation center where Keyshon sometimes got homework help. Hooper signed him up before KIPP Harbor had even found a building. She was impressed, she says, by the school's mission "to get the kids ready for college."
Keyshon initially balked at some of the school's demands during a three-week session of summer school. But, Jallon says, he quickly got his act together, and she thinks he will thrive this school year.
Now Keyshon enters KIPP Harbor's new home on the campus of Sojourner-Douglass College in Edgewater. "Wow, cool," he says, looking around.
The building is brand-new but hardly perfect. Jallon and her five-person staff had little more than a week to transform one wing into a middle school. A utility room was quickly turned into a nurse's office. Two classrooms were formed by splitting a large room with movable partitions. The hallway is dominated by a massive purple banner that reads "2013" -- the year these fifth-graders should graduate from high school and head off to college.
The nearly 80 students are sorted into homerooms, and Keyshon gets to work on his first assignments: tackling word problems that require subtraction and sentences that need to be corrected. Jallon watches from the back of his classroom with hawk eyes. For a long time, it seemed as if opening day might never come. But Jallon doesn't get a minute to reflect on her sense of accomplishment and relief. The school has gotten a call that one of the students has missed the bus, and Jallon needs to figure out how to get the girl to school.
-- Tyler Currie