Kevin Lee, Pupil Personnel Worker, Oakland Mills Middle School and Oakland Mills High School
Posted: May 31st, 2017
Kevin Lee said that as an educator, “I recognized so many of my students struggled academically because they had mental health needs that weren’t being met.” He realized his calling was to help students and families in need. Now as a Pupil Personnel Worker (PPW) at Oakland Mills Middle School and Oakland Mills High School, he said, “I love this line of work. We are out front removing barriers. Without doing that, kids aren’t coming ready to learn or ready to succeed in classrooms.”
PPWs work with school staff, students, parents and community agencies to identify and prevent obstacles, such as absenteeism, that adversely impact educational success. Lee provides support in a variety of ways, including working with students in atypical living situations, making home visits to encourage family involvement, leading attendance team meetings, providing informational and community resources, and even distributing clothing, school supplies and food when needed. He is known to create a welcoming environment by greeting families in their native language, when possible.
Lee is the lead on the PPW homeless team, which entails writing and overseeing the Homeless Education Assistance Program federal grant. To meet new grant requirements, Lee developed the College & Career Mentoring Program for Homeless Youth, now available in all HCPSS high schools. The program supports homeless students in creating college and career plans by providing opportunities to look at colleges, meet professionals in their fields of interest and more.
The success of Lee’s mentoring program has caught state and national attention. Since the program started, the graduation rate and self-reported postsecondary entry rate have both increased for the homeless population: from 80 to 84 percent and 40 to 92 percent, respectively from 2014 to 2016. Lee has presented his program to the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.
Lee’s work extends to other leadership activities and PPW special assignments. Along with a small committee, he helped create a 1-credit MSDE-approved Continuing Professional Development course called the Educational Impact of Homelessness. He is also on the HCPSS crisis intervention team and PPW professional development team, and the county’s Continuum of Care and Housing Stability Subsidy Program review panel.
His 17 years in education began as a 5th grade teacher near his Connecticut hometown. He came to the Baltimore area to get involved in working with high needs schools, which led him to pursue a master’s in school counseling and then PPW certification. Lee joined HCPSS in 2005 as a school counseling intern, and has been here ever since, first as a school counselor before switching over to his PPW role.
Pupil Support Services Coordinator Restia Whitaker said, “Kevin Lee is a compassionate and committed PPW. He is always searching for opportunities to assist HCPSS families and students. Kevin is a professional who loves being a PPW, and it shows.”
Lee remains inspired by his students’ success stories, such as graduation or enrollment in a teen parenting program. As a resident of Oakland Mills, he has a special fondness for the community, explaining, “I really know some of the families because we are neighbors.”
Lee’s commitment is noted throughout the school system, especially at his two assigned schools. Oakland Mills Middle School Principal Megan Chrobak calls Lee “a tireless advocate for students” and “an incredible resource so dedicated to our students and families.” Oakland Mills High School Principal Katherine Orlando agrees: “Kevin is a true partner with schools and understands how to help families in so many ways. He adds so much to our Student Services team because of his knowledge and positive relationships in the community.”