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A Q&A with Keisha Gill-Jacob, Principal of The Chimes School

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

This week, David Nevins, President and CEO of Nevins & Associates, spoke with Dr. Keisha Gill-Jacob, the new Principal of The Chimes School. David and Dr. Gill-Jacob discussed how The Chimes School is embarking on a new chapter with a new principal and vice principal coming on board this past summer, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the inspiring accomplishments of the students they serve. Below is a condensed version of their conversation:

David Nevins: Congratulations on your new role with The Chimes School and welcome to Baltimore! Tell us some more about The Chimes School and its mission.

Dr. Gill-Jacob: Thank you David, it is great to be in Baltimore! The Chimes School serves students ages 5 to 21 who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, Autism, and co-occurring disabilities, which may include emotional and behavioral challenges. The program includes both diploma (K-3) and certificate (K-12) tracks.

Currently, 67 students are enrolled at The Chimes School and we draw students from Baltimore City and all surrounding counties.

DN: Every school across the country has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and I imagine The Chimes School is no exception. What adjustments have you had to make and how are you adapting?

KGJ: The COVID-19 pandemic has most definitely led to some challenges for our students and staff, but we all have exhibited great resiliency in the face of unforeseen and unprecedented circumstances. Like many schools in Maryland, we are offering virtual learning for our students. Our instructors are offering remote instruction for three hours each day through Google Classroom and Zoom platforms.

Additionally, The Chimes School staff have adapted and expanded the curriculum to include a physical education and a theater arts program for students. We’ve also worked proactively and in partnership with referring area school districts in the region to ensure students have working mobile devices for virtual learning and Internet access.

Most students have responded extremely well to the transition to remote learning, but there are others that are struggling that we continue to work with. I cannot thank the staff, including our amazing new Assistant Principal Alisa Jackson-Purvis, enough for stepping up and making the virtual option work so well. It is our belief that any student can learn and grow to his or her fullest potential and we’re thrilled to be able to continue helping them achieve their greatest measure of independence.

Our team employs the latest evidence-based practices to truly help students reach their fullest potential. We develop and implement Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) to ensure our students have goals to work towards based on their own individual abilities and interests. In addition, we also offer important related services for students including speech therapy, physical therapy, behavioral support and more.

While we are focused on virtual learning at the moment, face-to-face instruction is still our goal and we are aiming for November 30, 2020 to start that up again.

DN: Tell us about your background and the qualifications you bring to your new role with Chimes.

KGJ: I have more than two decades of experience in education and working with individuals with disabilities. I previously served in a variety of leadership roles at the New York City Department of Education, Cecil County Public Schools, the Friends of Bedford, Inc., D.C. Public Schools and Bancroft Educational Services. I earned my doctorate degree in elementary and secondary special education from Capella University, a master’s degree in special education from Long Island University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the College of New Rochelle.

I feel very fortunate to have had a career where I’ve worked in both urban and rural areas as well as traditional school and special education settings. I find the most joy in special education and am thrilled to be at The Chimes School where we are not just chasing test scores, we are making a real difference in students' lives.

Although my experience of taking on a new school principalship has been a bit atypical due to the pandemic, the entire team at the school and throughout the entire Chimes Family of Services has been tremendously supportive and has allowed me to transition into my new role with ease. I know it may be a while before we transition back to in-person learning, but I’m proud of how virtual learning is going and that we’re helping students accomplish their goals in the meantime.

DN: Many people in Baltimore think of Chimes as “the little school up in Mt. Washington” but there’s far more to it than that.

KGJ: In the years since the founding of Chimes in 1947, the Chimes Family of Services has become one of the largest providers of services and supports for people with barriers to independent living in the region.

Today, Chimes offers a wide range of programming, including day habilitation, residential, educational, vocational, employment, and behavioral health services and supports nearly 24,000 individuals annually in seven Mid-Atlantic States. Chimes distinguishes itself from other disability service providers through its unique emphasis on client centered, evidence-based program design. I am thrilled to be part of the team and excited to see what the future holds.

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