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Jared Lamb '03: rebuilding the schools in New Orleans

Hurricane Katrina – along with poverty, poor management and lack of options – have dealt the schools of New Orleans a heavy blow in the past five years.

Jared Lamb ’03 is playing an instrumental role in helping the city’s education system rebound. Lamb, who has been teaching in the city since graduating from Connecticut College with a degree in zoology, is the principal of a new charter school in New Orleans. He started the job this fall.

Lamb initially took a pre-med route in college, but decided to go into teaching after he was inspired by a fellow classmate who was working with Teach for America. Lamb was also inspired by sports at Connecticut College. He ran cross country with Coach Jim Butler and track with Coach William Wuyke for all four years.

Teach for America placed Lamb in a New Orleans high school after graduation, marking the first time he left his home state of Connecticut. With Teach for America, he taught biology to 10th graders. Inspired by the sports he loved at Connecticut College, he also started track team and cross country teams at the high school.

“I grew attached to the kids, and really enjoyed the work,” he said, explaining his decision to remain in New Orleans following his Teach for America assignment.

In the 04-05 school year, 64 percent of the city’s public schools were labeled “academically unacceptable” by the state, prompting an educational overhaul that was only intensified in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Lamb evacuated the city only two days before the hurricane hit. A week later, his Teach for America coach called to request help at a “Knowledge is Power Program” (KIPP) school for New Orleans evacuees in Houston. The acclaimed public school charter network strives to close the achievement gap in education and better prepare students for college. Motivated by his desire to help out in any way he could, Lamb drove to the school in Houston overnight.

Lamb recently served as the principal of KIPP McDonogh 15 middle school where he was also a math teacher. He was recognized as the highest performing eighth-grade teacher in the New Orleans Recovery School District after moving his math students from the 23rd to 81st percentile within one year.

“The key ingredients that make KIPP schools successful are the hard work and long hours clocked by an awesome team of teachers,” Lamb said.

After completing the KIPP Fisher Fellowship program, a year-long leadership program, Lamb opened a new, open-enrollment charter middle school in the Ninth Ward this summer. KIPP New Orleans Leadership Academy joins six other KIPP New Orleans schools that enroll about 1,300 students from across the city.

Before Hurricane Katrina, students attended neighborhood schools. Today, 70 percent of New Orleans schools are charter schools, which allow parents and students a much larger choice in determining their education.

Lamb, the son of author Wally Lamb, the College's Commencement speaker in 2003, attributes much of his leadership success to his mentors at Connecticut College. “My coaches were such leaders for me. They instilled the values about working hard and leadership in general. I use the lessons they’ve taught me to this day,” he said.

It worked both ways. “I learned from him,” Coach Wuyke said. Wuyke, now the director of the College’s Fitness and Wellness Center, said Lamb is talented, smart and funny -- and that everyone Lamb encounters enjoys his company.

-- Meredith Boyle '13

November 15, 2010