‘I played a part:’ Here’s how the principal of Jones High School is getting results for his students

Norwood’s 1st year at Jones saw graduation rates up 12%

ORLANDO, Fla. – Jones High School Principal Orlando Norwood told News 6 he always knew his life was destined for education.

He said he’s the type of principal who’s very visible.

“So, every morning, I’m on the front and I’m saying good morning to everyone. I’m making sure that I’m walking around to the students, talk to them about their day and what’s going on at lunch, so they’re very comfortable with me,” Norwood said. “And so whenever there’s something going on, they see me on and off, and they feel comfortable, let me know — if it’s not verbally, they send me an email — and when I’m walking around with the students, and I ask them questions all the time, I said, ‘OK, well, what can I do to be a better principal? What can I do to make sure that Jones is going in the right direction because I want everyone to be successful?’ And they really give me a lot of great input.”

The 2022-23 school year was Norwood’s first as Jones’ principal. During that year, the graduation rate rose 12%.

“Yes. Amazing. And then of course, it’s not just about me, it’s about making sure that the parents, the faculty and staff, the students, everyone played a part. And we were making sure that we have these meetings continuously, sitting down to school counselors, meeting with the students as well, our college career specialists, everyone definitely played a role in this, and just hearing the students and they’re like, ‘OK, well, Mr. Norwood, thank you so much for all those Saturday Boot Camps. I mean, I didn’t want to get up, but I still came,’” he said. “But you know what it is, and I told them, ‘No one owes you anything. This is just the first quarter of your life, so you have to make sure that you make it count now so you can get through high school because trust me, when you become an adult, you’re going to be an adult your whole life.’ So go ahead and enjoy and set yourself up for success while you have the chance.”

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Norwood is going into his 17th year in education. After graduating from Oak Ridge High School and Florida A&M University, he started as an elementary school teacher.

“I taught fourth and fifth grades, and then I moved on to become a dean at Rosemont Elementary. Then from there, I became the assistant principal at Meadowbrook Middle School for four years, and after that I went on to Oak Ridge High School, my alma mater. I went there for four years and then finally I became the principal at South Creek Middle School. I was there for two years and I just finished my third year as the principal, but my first year here at Jones, I couldn’t be more excited,” Norwood said.

Norwood said he prides himself on building authentic relationships with the students.

“So, interestingly enough, our motto is, ‘It’s all about respect, responsibility, and accountability,’ and so I say that twice a day and I explain to the students all the time (...) if I’m going to give you respect, I want you to do the same thing in return, and that’s what we’re trying to teach them once they leave the school. It’s all about how you present yourself to people and it’s all about making sure that you are on the same page and that you understand the route that the world has set for you, because no one owes you anything and we just want to make sure that when they go out into society, they have a promising and successful future and that they continue to pay it forward. So that’s one of those the major pillars of life is respect and it works both ways. So that’s why I always try to make sure I communicate that with the students,” he said.

In 2016, Norwood founded the No Excuses Mentoring program, which focuses on at-risk males. He estimates around 450 young men have completed the program and 100% of those students have graduated from high school.

“Our principles are scholarship, leadership, and community service for all, and I started that program because I wanted to make sure that I was able to share the experiences that I gained as an adult just going through life, just struggling with the students in high school so they can go ahead and be better than me. For example, we have networking opportunities, talk about politics and how to become a better man, so all those pieces are extremely important and the only thing that I tell them that I want them to do is, just pay it forward. Just think about what Mr. Norwood did for you, and I want you to get — maybe you don’t have to start a mentoring program — but at least get you a couple of mentees or one mentee and make sure you pour into him the same thing that I poured into you.”

News 6 Anchor Julie Broughton asked Norwood if he considers himself a hero.

“Yes, I will call myself a hero. I would,” Norwood said. “It’s just it’s overwhelming at times because I know that I’m doing these things just because I want to make sure that while I’m here on Earth, I played a part. ‘You know what, Orlando Norwood, he meant something when he was here.’ So that’s it, feels wonderful.”

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About the Author:

Julie Broughton's career in Central Florida has spanned more than 14 years, starting with News 6 as a meteorologist and now anchoring newscasts.