Growing up in Atlanta as an only child in a single-parent household never kept Jay Bland from the opportunities that his other Jewish friends had. He is the first male principal at Morris Brandon Elementary School in its nearly 80 years in existence and one of the youngest principals in the Atlanta Public School system.
Bland’s mom worked hard as a school administrator, putting in long hours in a very stressful environment in order to send him to The Epstein School from kindergarten to seventh grade and then Yeshiva from eighth to 10th grade.
He also credits many lifelong friendships to his time at Camp Barney Medintz, where he spent 10 years as a camper and seven on staff. He added that those years helped him stay connected to his religion as he grew up.
Bland graduated from the University of South Carolina with an undergrad degree in physical education, landing a job in the Atlanta Public Schools in 2005, the very school system his mom worked in for much of her career.
“I always knew I was going to be in education. I did one semester of athletic training before switching and once I started student teaching, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Bland said.
Throughout it all, he returned to school three times to earn a master’s, specialist and leadership certification from Georgia State University.
Earning his Eagle Scout right before college, then teaching P.E. and health in middle school for 10 years, and coaching several successful soccer teams – school, club and varsity at the North Atlanta High School – gave Bland all the tools necessary to become a school-based leader.
In 2015, he interviewed and was eventually awarded the assistant principal position at Morningside Elementary School, where he spent the next three years.
“The process of becoming an assistant principal was a little more informal. Literally one day I was a P.E. teacher and the next I was an assistant principal,” Bland said. “The principal position was much more rigorous. You go through a five-hour interview with multiple people just to get in a pool where you can be a possible principal.”
At the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, Bland was given the chance to lead Morris Brandon as its new principal. The school has more than 1,000 students, 120 employees and two buildings serving the North Buckhead area.
Bland lives in Brookhaven with his wife Leslie and two children, Liam and Avery.