By Julie Ross
A decade ago, Timothy Beaumont sat behind a desk in London, England, working as an attorney. But as of March 26, he will do a very different job behind a very different desk in his new job as principal of West Orange’s Redwood Elementary School.
Selected in a process that included local parents as well as West Orange administrators and teachers, Beaumont replaces Interim Principal Heather Carr, who has headed up the school since September of 2017. Carr assumed the duties of former Redwood Elementary School Principal Bruce Arcurio following his resignation last summer.
Beaumont’s educational experience can be characterized as somewhat unique. Born in Wales into a family of educators, he attended school in Swaziland as a teenager. There, he studied alongside the children of politicians and diplomats, as well as with Rwandan refugees and former youth soldiers from Mozambique and Angola. While at school, he said, he quickly realized that he “did not have a sense” of his own privilege.
The new principal’s career has also followed an interesting trajectory. Although he worked as a summer camp counselor at Elks Camp Moore in Pompton Plains—where he met his wife Sarah—he did not start out in the field of education. Rather, he worked as a corporate attorney in London after attending BPP University Law School and, prior to that, the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, where he received a Baccalaureate in history and African American studies.
Ten years ago, however, Beaumont decided he wanted a career change and his wife missed New Jersey, so the couple relocated from London to the U.S. It was at this time that he opted to parlay into a vocation the love of teaching that had been instilled in him by his former history teacher, Mrs. Earnshaw, an African educated in Switzerland.
“In the UK, we always glossed over the study of Colonialism,” he said. “Mrs. Earnshaw always challenged us to argue and discuss, challenge our assumptions, connect our realities, and show different perspectives,” he said.
Beaumont first applied his affinity for teaching at Clinton Elementary School in Maplewood. While serving as a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher there, he helped to bring the school out of Focus School status over a period of 18 months, according to West Orange school officials. N.J schools that fall into the Focus School category have, among other attributes, the widest gaps in achievement between different subgroups. They receive targeted and tailored solutions to meet their specific needs.
Beaumont was eventually named Clinton Elementary School’s assistant principal. He is currently on special assignment in the South Orange-Maplewood School District, assisting with its Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC).
Coming into a new school in the middle of the academic year rather than at the beginning, Beaumont said, puts him in a somewhat unusual situation for a new principal. He has no plans to make radical changes or to place undue burdens on Redwood Elementary School’s teachers.
“For change to work effectively, people need a shared sense of vision and ownership, and it takes time to develop those relationships,” he said. “I don’t expect teachers to do what I would not do myself. Redwood is already a school that runs well. I’ll be meeting with Dr. Carr and the staff to learn more about Redwood.”
He added that the West Orange schools have a great reputation, and that Redwood Elementary School has top-notch educators and is doing great things.
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically,” he said. “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education,’ said Martin Luther King, Jr., and that is the philosophy I follow. As educators we need to develop skills, intellect and character in an environment where there is freedom to make mistakes. I’m not looking for perfection, but to work together to make things better.”
The father of three children, Beaumont presently resides in Union with his family.