NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The goal at Daniel Jenkins Academy in Charleston County is to restore students with challenges back to their home school by addressing their academic, behavioral, and mental health needs.  

Principal Quintella Middleton is leading that endeavor with unwavering grace, passion, and love for her students. She is our Cool School principal of the week.

Mrs. Middleton is in her first year as principal of Daniel Jenkins Academy, after serving six years as assistant principal.  “The proud principal of Daniel Jenkins Academy,” she said. “We’re just ready to show what our students can do. They still are educated. They still can produce. They still can succeed.”

Instead of expulsion, students enter Daniel Jenkins Academy and start the restoration process to return to their home school.  

“Students can level up in forty-five days. They can earn a hundred behavior points per day. Once they get to about 4,500 points, we start the restoration process for them to go back to their home school,” Middleton explained. “It’s our responsibility to work on maybe issues that got them here. We implement strategies, so when they are restored to their home school, they know how to cope.”

The school serves 105 students in grades 8th through 12th, offering academic interventions and counseling services to deal with anger management and conflict resolution.

There is also grief and self-esteem support, with an on-site mental health counselor, psychologist, social worker, behavioral interventionist and restoration specialist.  

“It’s not what it once was thought of: the bad kids. There are no bad kids. We have kids that have trauma, and we work through those traumas, so they can be successful, and I love all of them,” said Middleton. “Every day is not a great day, but at the end of the year, every day is a great day, when our students are restored to their home school.”  

Teachers say Middleton has changed the culture in her first year.

“She’s fabulous. She’s done so much to improve the culture and climate here at Daniel Jenkins Academy tremendously. Students come to school, and they feel cared about. The staff is so supported by her, the positivity she brings each day is just wonderful,” said Travis Clark, a physical education teacher at the school.

Middleton says she’s proud of the school’s shift in focus to college and career readiness and community outreach efforts.

“I’m very proud of our college and career tour for our students here at Daniel Jenkins Academy. Last week, Thursday, they actually visited Coastal Carolina University as well as Francis Marion University, just to see what life was like on a college campus,” said Middleton.

She is also proud of a new initiative called Lunch and Learn. “We have community members come in, and they talk about their careers with our students; so far we’ve had cosmetology, we’ve had banking, we’ve had credit repair, we’ve had North Charleston Police Department. Coming up next week we have the trucking industry, just so our kids are aware.”  

The school also has a partnership with the Community Resource Center.

“Every first Thursday, the school has a community food drive, where they give food to members of the community. Our community members love it. They can get fresh vegetables, fresh fruits,” she said. “They can get meat — anything that we get from the Community Resource Center.  We organize it and pack boxes, and we put the boxes in the car, and they are beyond grateful.”

Principal Middleton describes her leadership style as collaborative. She says she’s blessed with phenomenal faculty and staff.

“The faculty and staff, they are amazing here. They have a love for our kids, and I just want everyone to know that it’s because of them that I’m able to do what I’m able to do with our students. It’s because of them.”  

“She’s a breath of fresh air. She gives us hope. She gives the children a vision beyond the walls of Daniel Jenkins Academy,” said parent advocate Maria McKnight. “She allows our kids to have exposure and our kids lack exposure. She affords them the opportunity to compete with the other students outside of these walls. Academically, our students are some of the smartest kids in the district. They just have to be given the opportunity to be seen and heard.”

“She’s an amazing person, and she’s always there when we need her. She encouraged me to take another high school course, and she’s the reason why I’m in that class. She’s sweet and kind and generous,” said eighth-grade student Desiree Calloway.

Middleton said she can see the maturity in students. “I can see the way they communicate. They appreciate their education. I actually can see the transformation in many of our students. Every day is not a good day – we’ve got challenging days. We’ve got to be a superhero some days, but when I come back the next day, that does not deter my attitude toward that particular student. The next day, it’s a clean slate … Daniel Jenkins Academy is here. We are going to continue to help our students. We are going to continue to help our parents strive and be college ready. Up from here, nothing but success.”

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