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Take Five with Donella Carter: Principal of Gregory Elementary

25 August 2023

Principal Carter is passionate about fostering a culture of shared leadership in her school community.

Principal Carter at her desk

Take Five is a series that highlights some of the many members of the CPS community who are going above and beyond for our schools. If you know someone who is making a difference, nominate them to be featured here

As we kick off the new school year, we are excited to highlight one of our incredible school leaders. Principal Donella Carter of John Milton Gregory Academy was recently honored as one of our District’s “game changer” principals. 

When asked for her “secret sauce” as a school leader, Principal Carter had this to say: 

"Being an educator and lifelong learner are the most important tools in the world. We have a responsibility to encourage and support all of our team members to be great and transform the school's vision into reality."

Located on Chicago’s West Side, Gregory is getting ready to celebrate its 100-year anniversary, and there’s no better person to lead this celebration than Principal Carter. As a child, Principal Carter attended Gregory herself, as did all of her siblings and even her mother! She has spent her entire 34 year career serving the school, first as a teacher, then as assistant principal, and now as Gregory’s principal.

How would you describe your leadership style?

From day one, I’ve been all about shared leadership. I can't do this by myself, and the success of a school can’t be dependent on just one person. I have such a strong team; I love pushing them to be great, as well as creating opportunities to celebrate our wins. I am very present, and I also try to embrace moments that may be uncomfortable, because that means we’re growing. 

What’s most rewarding about your work?

Building connections with my staff and students, and seeing my former students’ success. Just this week, I received a phone call from a former student thanking me for the support I gave him in school. I love being able to see those rewards.

What’s special about your school community?

The history I have at Gregory, both within my family and as an educator, truly makes it “my” community. I feel like I’m meant to be here, and I try each and every day to make a difference in the lives of our families.

What is your mindset heading into the new school year?

This year is about getting to the next level. I'm going to continue my focus on distributive leadership, and on identifying my team’s talents and skills and helping bring those to the forefront. 

What do you like doing outside of work?

I have a large family, and I love hanging out with them. My cousins in particular. I also love trying out new things; taking up rollerblading, learning how to swim, and possibly getting a motorcycle or three-wheeler are all on my list of things I want to try this year!

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