Even under normal circumstances, the principal of the largest high school in Baltimore County would face a difficult task.
But Perry Hall High Principal George Roberts said this particular school year—which began with a student shooting on Aug. 27—has "challenged his leadership skills."
Based on input from residents and community leaders, County Councilman David Marks named Roberts the Fifth District Citizen of the Year on Thursday, lauding his "assertive presence" in the shooting's aftermath, as well as his efforts to showcase the school's 50-year history.
"There are many others more deserving, but I will certainly accept it on behalf of the entire staff here," Roberts said. "We have such a professional staff, and because of the support of the teachers and kids, it's been a much smoother road than it would be otherwise."
Marks recognized Roberts' accomplishments over his five-year tenure, stating, "George Roberts would stand apart even if the shooting never occurred on August 27th."
Starting in 2008, Roberts led an effort to name areas after important figures in the school's history—including the library's re-dedication as the James R. Bowerman Media Center. Black and white photos from the school's past and the school crest began appearing on school walls. He is also promoting a celebration of the school's 50th graduating class in 2014.
Above average test scores, graduation rates and scholarship winnings have been ongoing under his leadership. In 2010, Newsweek recognized Perry Hall as one of "America's Best High Schools."
Roberts also has focused on revamping the aging school's appearance with a new marquee and signs.
According to Marks, "As a graduate of Perry Hall High School, I can say that he is one of the best principals in that school's history. But the shooting really demanded a special type of leader. There were many individuals who provided extraordinary assistance that day, from the heroic faculty who restrained the gunman to our public safety professionals, but Mr. Roberts set the tone of leadership that was needed on August 27th and days afterward."
"These challenges have caused me to grow as a leader. Looking back on the situation, I'm much more connected to the community," Roberts said.
"It's unfortunate that negative things sometimes cloud all of the good we're doing here," he added.
Before Roberts was appointed the fifth principal of Perry Hall in 2008, he worked as principal of Golden Ring Middle School and as an assistant principal throughout Baltimore County from 2004 to 2007. He worked as a teacher and administrator in Prince George's County from 1995 to 2004.
Roberts holds a bachelor's degree in education from then-Towson State University, as well as a master's degree from Bowie State University and a graduate certificate from Johns Hopkins University.
A native of Prince George's County, he currently lives in Towson with his wife and three daughters.