Peter Kannam

Credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

An anchor for the community

Peter Kannam, Ed '99 (MS), has been the principal of Henderson-Hopkins, a K-8 public school in Baltimore, since 2018—spending more than half of his tenure steering the school through a pandemic. Improvisation and flexibility have defined his response: The school never fully shut its doors but adapted to become a food distribution site, a COVID-19 vaccination clinic, and a haven for students during remote learning.

Located in Baltimore's Eager Park neighborhood, the contract school operated by Johns Hopkins and Morgan State universities was a Safe Center for Online Learning, where students could enter the building toaccess the internet for supervised virtual school and meals. In April, it hosted a vaccine clinic for more than 200 adults. And since March 2020, Henderson-Hopkins has given out about 10,000 pounds of food per week to thousands of families.

Through it all, Kannam says the high point was Aug. 30, when the school, which U.S. News & World Report recently ranked as one of the best in the city, finally welcomed back a full student body. "That first day of school, seeing everybody—through the masks—the joy on their faces, seeing that they'd been craving being back at work and back at school. That was a really, really happy day," Kannam says.

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