Just days before Howard County’s schools open for students, James LeMon said he is eager to begin his first year as principal of the school he has always seen as the center of the county.
“I’ve heard people talking about ] ever since I came to the county,” he said. “The school always has a lot going for it, in everything from arts to academics to athletics.”
LeMon, 45, replaces Restia Whitaker, now principal at . Wilde Lake expects 1,300 students this year, officials said.
Originally from the suburbs of Pittsburgh, LeMon has lived in Columbia for 17 years and has worked at four other schools in Howard County in the last 11 years.
From 1999-2003 he taught alternative education at Mt. Hebron High School. In 2004 he was promoted to assistant principal of Patapsco Middle School, where he stayed one year before he joined Marriotts Ridge High School as an assistant principal in 2005.
In 2010 LeMon was transferred to Hammond High School, spending the year as an assistant principal before arriving at Wilde Lake.
LeMon also has an extensive social work background. In addition to receiving a master’s degree in physical education from West Virginia University, he also holds a master’s in social work from the University of Maryland.
Before switching to education, LeMon’s social work career focused heavily on working with juveniles, he said. After a few years as a juvenile probation officer, he worked as a therapist at an inpatient juvenile psychiatric facility in southwestern Pennsylvania.
He spent his first five years in Maryland as a therapist at the Walter P. Carter Center, a state-run inpatient psychiatric facility in Baltimore City that provided services to underprivileged patients.
“Working there was an unbelievable experience--I learned and saw things that would not have even crossed my mind otherwise,” LeMon said.
Being a principal is never a cakewalk of a job, but LeMon said that his social work background made it easier for him to deal with challenges that come his way as a principal.
“At this point, there isn’t a lot that shocks me," he said. "I’ve seen a lot in my previous work, and what seems like a crisis for some might be less of one for me. “
LeMon said his primary goal in his first year as principal is to develop positive relationships with students and staff.
“I want to get to know the students and staff and help both groups reach their full potential.”
When it comes to students, LeMon said he hopes to pay it forward and help other students have the same great opportunities he had at their age.
“I’m sitting here today because someone gave me a chance and helped me reach my potential," he said. "I hope one of my students can say the same thing in the future.”