Episode #214: Baruti Kafele

Dana GoodierOut of the Trenches Podcast

As a highly regarded urban educator in New Jersey for over twenty years, Principal Baruti Kafele distinguished himself as a master teacher and a transformational school leader. As an elementary school teacher, he was a New Jersey State Teacher of the Year finalist, and a recipient of the New Jersey Education Association Award of Excellence. As a middle and high school principal, Principal Kafele led the turnaround of four different New Jersey urban schools.

One of the most sought-after school leadership and classroom equity presenters in America, Principal Kafele is impacting America’s schools! He has delivered over two thousand conference and program keynotes and professional development workshops.  Principal Kafele is the leading authority for providing effective classroom and school leadership strategies toward closing what he coined, the “Attitude Gap.” He has authored twelve books, including his seven ASCD best sellers – Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School & in Life, Closing the Attitude Gap, Is My School a Better School BECAUSE I Lead It?The Teacher 50, The Principal 50, The Assistant Principal 50 and his newest release, The Equity & Social Justice Education 50. Principal Kafele is also the creator and host of the popular Virtual Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, streamed live every Saturday morning on his Virtual AP Leadership Academy YouTube channel and his other social media platforms at 10:55 EST.

Trenches story: hasn’t talked about it a ton. Being at odds with a superintendent. Didn’t see work the same way. Career was on an upward trajectory. Was suspended. Termination hearing coming the following week. Was on a popular radio talk show. Parents expressed outrage, became bigger story, board voted he’d done nothing wrong. 5 years later received the prestigious Milken Award, example of standing firm on what you believe. Continued to do the work. Hence great award years later. Overwhelming.

Tell me what got you started with the AP Leadership Academy (since it was originally only supposed to run for 10 weeks- now it’s gone for 144 weeks. Consumes a lot of his life- weeks’ worth of planning. It’s the biggest joy of his life/work. Is it’s a conference & he’s the keynoter, ppl will gravitate to session. Everyone who attends his Academy make that conscious decision. He won’t speak at the conference if it interferes w/ his academy. Ppl wouldn’t tune in b/c his agenda. B/c of AP position not being just a disciplinarian.

Plans for guests/how you decide who to interview? Is trying to read audience. Looks @ #’s and see how many are interested. Had 90 items, only covered 17 last Saturday. Wants to keep it diverse. He’s booked out till next summer. Rapid fire questions- why he does it. He wants to see how authentic they are. If they have to give it a lot of thought- they’re not really thinking about it. Like “can true equity occur in American schools?” “What are you reading?” Could be a blog even.

After your last 2 books, published in2021 and 2020 Asst Principal 50, Equity & Social Justice 50- you’ve been given contracts to write more for ASCD. Talk about these. He does a motivational commentary. Many of those are about protecting. Protecting your happiness, joy, what else can a leader protect? 105 diff. things. Thought he’d divide up 100 things into 2 books. Had exceeded his goal of 35K words. Will do 35K x 3. Use protecting. Guarding, shielding. Not allowing someone to break it down.

What is your favorite thing about being in front of a roomful of school leaders? 11 years since he left principalship to consult full-time but has spoken 36 yrs. Fired up is continuation of work. If it’s about equity & not everyone can embrace it, loose enjoyment. He feels the tension. He loves going in & teaching, inspiring.

One of your most notable sayings on your Saturday show is “I’m on Fire!!!”. What ignites your passion? How did you take that passion from the stage to the camera? being able to see comments while live ignites him. He can’t elevate the passion, enthusiasm w/o comments. “Amen, preach”, other affirmations help him be his authentic self. Speakers look for the “Amen”. You have broader audience. You find yourself speaking to the commenters. They’re yours, doing audience analysis.

Out of everything? Whatever you’re pursuing in life, give it maximum effort. Put forth effort in your craft. The competition is out there doing it. Click To Tweet

Find Principal Kafele online: www.principalkafele.com social platforms just getting into IG & LinkedIn. FB, Twitter. IG: @millionmileman

Find this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/BeqBeIBGH2c



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