February 18, 2022
Alumna is 2021 Principal of the Year in Maryland
Taiisha Swinton-Buck ’08, principal of Baltimore’s Digital Harbor High School and Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals’ 2021 Principal of the Year, will deliver the keynote address at Susquehanna University’s 164th Commencement on Saturday, May 28.
Born and raised in Mount Vernon, New York, Swinton-Buck pursued her passion for English-secondary education at Susquehanna and went on to earn both her master’s degree in educational administration and doctorate in educational leadership from Drexel University.
Swinton-Buck is committed to supporting teachers in the work to expand educational opportunities for all students. The nine years she served in a large, comprehensive high school with diverse populations were foundational in developing her leadership style, and she has continued to see the importance of building a positive climate and culture through targeted professional development and full integration of social-emotional learning for staff and students.
“Taiisha’s work to make education inclusive, equitable and accessible is an inspiration to me. Taiisha has taken the skills and values she gained from Susquehanna, enhanced with her continued educational and professional experience, and is now multiplying her impact with her students,” said Susquehanna University President Jonathan Green. “I can think of no one more worthy to bring before our graduates to offer her message of persistence, perseverance and hope for the future.”
Setting Records at Digital Harbor High School
As principal of Baltimore’s Digital Harbor High School, Swinton-Buck has made record-setting impacts in attendance, grade averages and graduation rates and created a robust secondary incentive system to reduce suspensions and classroom incidents. She built a positive behavioral reinforcement program that focuses on student needs and wants. For example, through her connection to a local beauty school, she implemented an incentive program for her students to be rewarded with haircuts and hairstyles while in school. Her mantra is “connection before content” and she knows most of her 1,300 students by name and always seeks to know their story.
Swinton-Buck works just as hard to provide students with resources that impact their education outside the classroom. To assist with food insecurity, she helped secure a Safeway grant to fund grocery gift cards and catered meals for students and their families. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Swinton-Buck worked tirelessly to ensure that all students had access to technology to participate in distance learning. Under her leadership, over 1,100 laptops and 300 hot spots were deployed to her students to help bridge the digital divide.
Perhaps most significantly, Swinton-Buck has taken proactive measures to dismantle inequitable practices in school by bringing equity to the forefront through the appointment of a Dean of Equity and Anti-Racism and has restructured her leadership team as the Equity Leadership Team. She has developed a new school structure for student wholeness that is reimagining the discipline structure to focus on the whole child and the whole community. This restorative justice and equity lens is driving her mission to ensure students receive an equitable education.
Celebrated by Today Show
In recognition of her tireless work on behalf of her students, Swinton-Buck was named Maryland’s 2021 Principal of the Year, and appeared on the Today Show with 100 of her students. During the live, national broadcast, host Al Roker surprised every student at Digital Harbor High School with a free laptop and a year of free internet access.
Upon defending her dissertation titled “Teaching Inner-city Youth When Pedagogy Is Not Enough: A Phenomenological Study About Change Agent Teachers,” Swinton-Buck dedicated it to her students, saying, “I dedicate this dissertation to every student who has sat in my classroom or walked the hallways of a school I have led. You are my hope for the future and fuel for my commitment to dismantling, disrupting, and destroying all barriers that stand in the way of your greatness.”
Susquehanna’s 164th Commencement, celebrating the Class of 2022, is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, May 28, in the Field House of the James W. Garrett Sports Complex.