From buckets to books: A former custodian is Columbia Elementary’s principal

“I had to do what I had to do,” said Columbia Elementary School Principal Raymond Stanley about his journey from the janitor’s closet to the principal’s office. Photo by Andrew Cauthen

A former school custodian is the principal at Columbia Elementary School.

Raymond Stanley’s career with the DeKalb County School District [DCSD] began after he graduated from Southwest DeKalb High School, when he got a summer job as a driver’s assistant, helping deliver supplies to custodians. Later he moved to the district’s crew that stripped and waxed floors. Another summer, he worked on the district’s grounds crew.

When Stanley was a college sophomore, he worked as a custodian at Norwood Elementary.

“At the time, I was happy to have a job,” Stanley said. “I was a young man…just trying to get through school. I knew it was a means to an end.”

Next, he began substitute teaching and eventually became a paraprofessional.

Near the end of his college career, he had to do some student teaching and had to give up his job as a paraprofessional.

“Once I completed my degree, I was out of a job [for] a time,” Stanley said. “There were no teaching positions available. So, I just had to do something. I was recently married, so I went back to being a custodian—with a teaching degree. I had to do what I had to do to make sure I was able provide support for my wife and [me].”

That lasted for three months before he got a job at Salem Middle teaching language arts and social studies.

“I knew something would come available,” he said.

Stanley worked in that job from 2001 to 2005. He worked as an assistant principal at Narvie J. Harris Traditional Theme School from 2005 to 2010, before becoming a principal at Columbia Elementary.

An Atlanta native and “Grady baby,” Stanley moved to DeKalb County with his family when he was in the third grade. He attended Rainbow Elementary and Southwest DeKalb High School where he graduated in 1995.

Both of Stanley’s parents worked for DCSD. His father, Roy Stanley, worked as a campus supervisor and retired from the district after 32 years. His mother, Una Faye Stanley, still works for the district as a secretary and bookkeeper at Rainbow Elementary. Stanley’s uncle, Mike Hall, was his principal at Southwest DeKalb.

Stanley, 36, is married to Shandria, a DCSD social worker. The couple has a daughter Evan, who will be a year old in February.

“My upbringing, being around schools all the time,…gave me the passion to become a principal,” Stanley said. “I always knew I wanted to be a principal.”

Stanley said he wanted to be a “role model for our young boys and girls because so many of them don’t have that male figure in their lives to give them a good example of what a good citizen should be.

“I was fortunate enough to have a mother and a father in my life,” Stanley said. That was not true for many of his classmates.

“A lot of my classmates…only had a mother or a grandmother; they just didn’t have that male figure in their lives,” Stanley said. Along with his parents and uncle, Stanley had coaches for role models.

“They looked after me,” he said. “They helped raise me. I just wanted to be able to give that back to young people.”

Stanley said he has “one of the greatest jobs in the world.”

“I get an opportunity every day to meet and greet and encourage our students,” he said. “I look forward to seeing them get off the bus every morning.”

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16 thoughts on “From buckets to books: A former custodian is Columbia Elementary’s principal

  • January 28, 2014 at 11:18 am
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    This is so inspiring…would that education had many more such dedicated school leaders.

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  • January 28, 2014 at 12:54 pm
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    May God continue to bless you.

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    • February 4, 2014 at 10:29 pm
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      Thank you! Sarah Corbin

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  • January 28, 2014 at 1:54 pm
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    Congratulations to Mr. Stanley and the entire family for such a beautiful tribute. May God continue to anoint, protect, and bless each of you as you raise our future leaders! Keep up the awesome work!

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    • February 4, 2014 at 10:30 pm
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      Thank you! Amanda Miller

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  • January 28, 2014 at 4:01 pm
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    Great story Mrs. Stanley. So proud of your son, even though I have not met him. God bless you all!

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  • January 28, 2014 at 10:26 pm
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    This is a very inspiring story. Our world is a better place because of dedicated educators.

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  • January 29, 2014 at 9:56 am
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    I am extremely proud of you Ray. You are an awesome person and deserve everything that God has blessed you with. A – town 4 life!

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    • February 4, 2014 at 10:32 pm
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      Dawkins, i appreciate that big dawg! Hope you and the fam are well.

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  • January 29, 2014 at 9:18 pm
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    What a wonderful story…thank you for sharing…so many of us forget from whence we come…but people like you…encourage others…when I was hired by the County I had the pleasure of working with you. I can truly say it was a pleasure to have you as a boss…never too good to do what you ask from others. So happy for you and may God bless you and your wonderful family..

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    • February 4, 2014 at 10:33 pm
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      Awwww. Thx Mrs Cain. Miss working with you

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  • January 30, 2014 at 11:21 pm
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    So proud of you just like one of my own. May God continue to give you favor, and continue to share that story everywhere you go, to inspire our students they need to know sometimes you have to crawl before you walk.
    Love you 🙂
    Mr. Stanley Be blessed

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    • February 4, 2014 at 10:35 pm
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      Thank you and god bless you. Phyllis Madden

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  • February 3, 2014 at 10:23 am
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    What an inspirational article.

    When work ethic, goals, and education are combined with a parents love, guidance, and support, the sky is truly the limit.

    May God continue to bless you with his mercy and favor.

    I love you Mrs. Stanley! What a proud mother you must be!

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  • February 4, 2014 at 7:49 am
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    This article should inspire all of our young people especailly our young males. Hats off to the Stanley family !

    Mrs. Stanley you are a joy to work with.Thank you Mr. Stanley for such a positive message.

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  • February 4, 2014 at 4:35 pm
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    Wow, Mrs. Stanley! What a beautiful and inspirational road he has traveled, jumping hurdles I’m sure along the way. And what better foundation than the one you and his father have set for him by example. It is wonderful and uplifting to read this article. Congratulations!

    Reply

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