Posts from Kate Schimel
December 22, 2010
At 9:30 this morning, the principal of the Ron Brown Academy in Brooklyn stood in her school’s auditorium, watching a fight break out.
Across from her, a tall girl in a tight pink shirt slapped at the girl in front of her. Three other girls grabbed the tall one’s arms and kicked at her legs. The girls broke apart as two boys doing cartwheels chased them off stage.
The principal, Celeste Douglas, broke into applause. She was watching the teenagers — who had grins plastered to their faces, and whose fight moves had been carefully choreographed by their teachers — perform their winter dance routine.
“Music makes me feel free,” said Justin, one of the dancers, after the performance. He is a seventh grader at Ron Brown, a middle school in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Music has also provided the school with an opportunity to improve its test scores, boost attendance and jump off the state’s watch list.
An unusual solution
When Douglas first arrived at Ron Brown Academy in 2006, she found a school in crisis.
Attendance hovered just above 80 percent, students performed poorly on standardized tests, and the previous spring, state officials had put the school on the SURR list of the lowest performing schools in New York. Douglas had three years to improve the school or risk seeing it shut down.
Faced with low performance and small budgets, other schools have cut extra programming and reinforced ELA and math skills. “One of the first things to get cut in schools is the arts program. I felt a lot of pressure to do the same thing,” Douglas said today, sitting in her office, a space decorated with pictures of her students’ performances and trophies of their successes.
December 10, 2010
Yesterday’s riot at Murry Bergtraum High School was the culmination of tensions that have simmered in the school since the arrival of a new principal this year, students said today.
Teachers said hundreds of students began running through the hallways, screaming and pushing each other, after new executive principal Andrea Lewis told students that the schools’ bathrooms would be closed for the day. But students said the incident was fueled by frustration over changes Lewis has made since she became principal at the beginning of this year.
City officials placed Lewis in Bergtraum in July as a “superprincipal” charged with improving the struggling school. Lewis will receive a $25,000 bonus for agreeing to lead the lower Manhattan school for three years.
Bergtraum has struggled with safety and overcrowding issues and received a D on last year’s progress report. Lewis’ previous school, ACORN Community High School, repeatedly received high grades on DOE-issued progress report cards. (more…)