After earning an A in two progress reports, last year P.S. 112 in the northern section of the Bronx fell to a D, setting off fears among students and parents that the school would be closed. The principal, Susan Barnes, talked about how fragile success can be in certain schools and certain neighborhoods, and how scoring poorly puts a school under a microscope.
Forest Hills High School has more than 3,800 students, 12 assistant principals and 195 teachers. Despite its size and crowding issues, it has earned an A on its progress report three years in a row. The principal, Saul Gootnick, said his team changed the culture of the school by focusing on the classroom and introducing changes one step at a time. “You have to have a plan and you have to make people believe in what you think,” he said.
The principal of Public School 186 in Bensonhurst roams the halls of her large school constantly, giving feedback and cheering on students and teachers as they work hard to do well on test scores, but she says she wants them to have fun in school, too.
Many students at East Side Community High School on East 12th Street in Manhattan enter the 6-12 school performing below grade level. Yet somehow 90 percent of graduates go on to college. The principal, Mark Federman, said students get personal attention and respect: “We have kids who act like knuckleheads and we have moments where we have to be tough with them. But we’re looking for kids to do the right thing. We have a lot of faith that they can do the right thing.”
‘It is very important for me to constantly look for opportunities in which people are looking to support public education,’ said Edward Tom in the latest interview for Principal’s Office. And his relentless fund-raising, combined with his results-oriented philosophy, have paid off. At the high school he founded seven years ago, the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics, students are thriving.
Jim Manly, 45, is the longest serving principal, or school leader, of the Success Academy Charter Schools, which started in 2006 and by next year could be operating a dozen schools throughout the city. He talks about working with Eva S. Moskowitz, the hard-charging founder of the Success network, and about how the constant protests and challenges to the Success schools has fortified his commitment to school choice.
Brett Kimmel was interested in school reform and decided the best way to change schools was to become a teacher. Then he was interested in creating a place where teachers would crave to work, and he created his own school, the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, also known as WHEELS. As its first senior class is about to graduate, and every student has applied to college, he thinks there are lessons here for others who want to make systemic change.
When students and teachers at Public School 277 in the Bronx learned in December that the school would not be closed down, even though it received an F in its progress report, “you could hear the resounding cheer throughout the school,’’ said Cheryl Tyler, the principal. Now, the hard work of coming back has begun.
A veteran of the public schools who is now principal at a charter school — and who home schooled her own children — asks: ‘Why can’t we have all different avenues for parents to educate their children? I think any time you give parents a choice, it’s a good thing.’
The principal of a transfer school on Staten Island says his staff provides personal attention to students that is not available at big high schools, serving as the “mom and pop store” to the big-box chain stores. And it shows in the results. “They should be knocking down the door to get here,” he says.
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