Checking and connecting

Darnell T. Logan, ’02, helps students stay on track to graduate

“I have an office, but my job doesn’t allow me to sit in it that much,” says Darnell T. Logan, ’02. “My day is always full, and I put tons of miles on my car.”

Logan is the coordinator of psychological services for Atlanta Public Schools, a system with roughly 100 schools and 50,000 students. He supervises all 22 of the district’s school psychologists and 16 student advocates. In addition, he is the district coordinator of positive behavior and intervention support (PBIS).  Every day he is involved in meetings, crisis interventions, consultations, and addressing district-level disciplinary concerns.

One morning in late September, for example, Logan conducted a clinical interview with a parent, then held a consultation with a principal at another location about services for a student with a disability.

“What’s most rewarding is when I feel I’ve helped a family,” says Logan. “’Central office coming to meet with us’ is still considered unusual.”

The most challenging aspect of his job is having to work reactively so often, he says. He provides monthly staff development for his team, but he always aspires to do more to support those he supervises as they work tirelessly supporting students.

The education path

At St. Paul Central High School, Logan didn’t foresee the career he has today. He was popular and involved in school activities, and he didn’t hold back from leadership or public speaking, but he says he didn’t have a particular focus. He thought he might go into business or teaching. At the University, he earned a bachelor’s degree that combined African American studies, sociology, and youth studies.

“I took the education path because I like to work with kids,” he says. After graduation, Logan was hired at the University’s Institute on Community Integration in Pattee Hall, working with Check & Connect in Minneapolis Public Schools.

Check & Connect is a research-based intervention to increase student engagement at school and with learning. It is designed to help at-risk students by building relationships and social and academic competence. Its goal is to help students complete school.

It was through Check & Connect that Logan met a school psychologist for the first time, Christine Hurley, ’98, and discovered the field. Hurley introduced him to professor Sandy Christenson in the Department of Educational Psychology.

Logan applied to graduate school in educational psychology and began in 1999. He continued to work with Check & Connect and wrote his master’s thesis on one of its components. After completing the specialist certificate in school psychology, Logan moved to Georgia for a job as a school psychologist with the Fulton County Public Schools in 2002. There he served a district of 90,000 students in the first-ring suburbs of Atlanta.

Over the next nine years, Logan worked in up to three schools at a time. He also developed a hobby, moonlighting as a DJ. That started when he got some basic equipment to use for a homecoming pep rally in the cafeteria of a high school where he served.

“It just grew from there,” he laughs. He recently worked an event for the governor of Georgia.

But Logan wasn’t done with school himself. He earned a leadership certificate at the University of West Georgia and his doctorate in executive leadership from Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee. However, he found that his educational psychology degree from Minnesota was his biggest advantage.

“My knowledge base was leagues above my peers,” he says. “Going into my doctoral program, I was already grounded in the statistics and research methodology. The grad program is strong and really sets you apart. It’s not just ‘Test the kid and place the kid’ but ‘Understand the kid.’”

In 2011, Logan was hired into his current position. And this fall, he was excited to bring Check & Connect to Atlanta Public Schools. The 16 student advocates he now supervises are Check & Connect mentors, joining Logan and his team to help students stay on track to graduate.

Learn more about the Department of Educational Psychology and Check & Connect.

Story by Gayla Marty | Photo by Dawn Villella | October 2014