By Rachel Leah
“I’m formerly incarcerated,” and “I spent 10 years in prison for an accident,” Kingsley Rowe told Compass Charter School’s founders during his initial interview for a position there. Rowe was not inexperienced in presenting himself to potential employers, but this was one of the first times Rowe had ever disclosed his prison time without being asked directly.
Rowe, 47, who stands tall at 6’3 but has a gentle and laid back approachability, had a good feeling about this Brooklyn school and the community it nurtured, one where other formerly incarcerated parents were embraced rather than shunned. In the interview, the administrators were apparently unconcerned about Rowe’s criminal history. For the board, the more pressing questions centered on his philosophy of social work and working with children. Compass Charter School, located in Bedford-Stuyvesant, was looking for a behavior intervention specialist for elementary school students, and Rowe seemed a perfect fit.
It took three more interviews, but Rowe was offered the job. He started orientation last August. He was ecstatic. “A dream job” was how Rowe described it. He would be able to work with kids who looked like him, with experiences and challenges he felt he could connect to and guide them through. Rowe remembers telling his wife gleefully, “I could actually work in schools,” a reality he had previously felt impossible, given the violent conviction on his record.