The 2013 Blackboard Awards For Schools And Principals


On Monday, Nov. 18, the Blackboard Awards honored 20 NYC schools and principals of excellence at a ceremony at Scholastic’s SoHo headquarters. The Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, Dennis Walcott, and the new Borough President of Manhattan, Gale Brewer, joined the celebration, which was sponsored by the United Federation Of Teachers, the City University of New York, Scholastic, Yorkville Youth Athletic Association, Stomping Ground Photo, and New York Family. The event’s emcee was Lisa Belkin, Huffington Post’s Senior Columnist, reporting and opining on life, work, and family.

Now in its 11th year, the Blackboard Awards honors excellence in all educational sectors (public, private, charter, and parochial) and grade levels (nursery to high school).  In addition to the fall ceremony for schools and principals, there is a spring celebration for teachers and guidance counselors. The Awards have two primary goals: to honor the work of dedicated and wonderful educators and school communities, and to serve as an ongoing resource for parents.

Please Note: We welcome and encourage parent nominations all year long; and to nominate a school, principal, teacher, or guidance counselor visit the Blackboardawards.com.  As the slideshow below will attest, we live in a city blessed with incredible educators and incredibly diverse educational options.  Prepare to be inspired.

If you prefer to view the 2013 Blackboard Awards For Schools And Principals in long-form, click here.

  • Photo by Andrew Schwartz

    CENTRAL PARK EAST 1
    PRINCIPAL: LINDY UEHLING
    PK-5
    1573 MADISON AVENUE
    CENTRALPARKEASTONE.ORG

    AWARD: PROGRESSIVE EDUCATION

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.

    Our mission is to educate children to be thoughtful citizens of a democratic society by providing an education that is investigative and reflective, encourages choice, and expects responsibility and discipline in all areas of learning and social behavior. The community works collaboratively, depending on the contributions of parents, children, and professional educators to realize the potential of human capacity.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    Our mission and philosophy aim to provide a school experience that emphasizes: 1) learning as an integrated experience, taking into account the deep interests and the questions of each child, and 2) a curriculum derived from the adults’ passions and understandings of child development. There are extensive opportunities in the visual and performing arts, cross-age groupings, and intensive and ongoing exploration of educational practice. We are also especially grateful for our strong teacher-parent partnerships, which are integral in our process of education and the life of the school.

    What’s new?

    Our students’ hard work, under the guidance of a gifted gardener, transformed the courtyard into a bountiful source for fresh vegetables, which are used in the morning snacks that the students prepare each day. Our halls are filled with the aromas of cooking—an especially appetizing part of the curriculum that combines reading, math, science, and nutrition. The children have added composting and the maintenance of worm farms to their skills.

    What do you love about your school? What do you see as its biggest challenges?

    I have never experienced a school that compares with how the teachers know each child so well. I love how the structure of multi-age classes and two-year looping enables parents and teachers to form a strong bond. I love the small size of the school (200-206 children) that fosters the family atmosphere where children seem as close as siblings. I love what the 5th graders write in the spring, which they compose for their “yearbook” titled Recollections. One of my favorites captured what I observe every day: “Here you have the freedom of choice of your values. We do reading because we value it. We value our learning, our time, and we value self-control. We value being responsible for ourselves.”

    My biggest challenge is to protect and sustain the school’s core values and methods in the current Department of Education regime that features relentless standardized testing (now extended to the youngest children) for the sake of teacher ratings generated from ridiculously faulty rationales.

  • Photo by Andrew Schwartz

    CENTRAL PARK EAST II
    PRINCIPAL: NAOMI SMITH
    PK-5 (EXPANDING TO MIDDLE SCHOOL IN 2014)
    19 EAST 103 STREET
    CPE2.ORG

    AWARD: PROGRESSIVE EDUCATION

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.

    Central Park East II provides a student-centered education for diverse learners in an environment built on a strong foundation of community. Our mission is to help students become inquisitive, critical, creative, and socially responsible life-long learners and problem-solvers. We work to identify and build on all students’ individual experiences, interests, perspectives, understandings, and abilities. At the same time, we’re committed to helping all students develop an awareness and appreciation of the diversity of experiences, interests, perspectives, understandings, and abilities present in any community.

    An integral part of our mission is to work with students to create a positive, socially and emotionally supportive community, because we believe that students learn best when they feel that they’re in a safe place where they feel known and where they will be treated with kindness and respect. Our vision of such a community includes strong and collaborative relationships among students, among staff members, between students and staff, and between the school and our students’ families.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    I think what’s really special about our school is that we continually assess what we’re doing and we’re willing to revisit old ideas and new ideas to make the best choices for our children.

    What’s new?

    The proposal to expand CPE II from K-5 to K-8 was approved by the Panel for Educational Policy on October 30, 2013. Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, we will co-locate the middle school grades of CPE II in building M013.

    What do you love about your school?

    I am proud that we are able to accomplish a strong academic program that includes the arts as an integral part of our curriculum. We maintain a happy environment. We have kids skipping down the hall and treating each other kindly. We do not resort to detentions. About 25 percent of our students have IEPs, and we believe that all kids are gifted. We don’t use tests to determine a child’s gifts and abilities; we use our innate understanding of children as we observe and support them.

  • Photo by Stomping Ground Photo

    DWIGHT SCHOOL
    PRINCIPAL: CHANCELLOR STEPHEN SPAHN
    HEAD OF SCHOOL DIANNE DREW
    N-12
    291 CENTRAL PARK WEST
    DWIGHT.EDU

    AWARD: COMMUNITY & CITIZENSHIP

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy and academic niche.

    Dwight School ignites the “spark of genius” in every child by crafting a personalized journey for every student based on his/her interests, talents, and passions with an extremely low teacher-student ratio of 1:4. Personalized learning, community, and global vision are the three pillars upon which a unique Dwight education rests.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    Founded in 1872, Dwight was the first U.S. school to offer the comprehensive International Baccalaureate curriculum—recognized worldwide as the “gold standard” in pre-university preparation. Dwight educates principled, open-minded risk takers who can thrive anywhere and make a difference locally and globally. Cross-campus curricular collaborations and exchanges connect our New York students with peers in Dwight London, Seoul, Beijing, and on Vancouver Island. In early 2013, Dwight refurbished the dormant recreational center of the East River Landing cooperative (First Avenue between 108th and 109th Streets) to bring shared value to both its 6,500 residents and Dwight students. The new 40,000-square-foot Dwight School Athletic Center—with an indoor pool, regulation-size high school gym, rooftop tennis courts, and more—bridges community boundaries, is launching a wide range of health, fitness, and youth leadership programs, and contributing to the renaissance in East Harlem.

    What’s new?

    Dwight has been named an IB Open World School, piloting groundbreaking online education that extends the IB diploma program to students around the globe.

    What do you love about your school? What do you see as its biggest challenges?

    The students inspire me every day. After 48 years in education, I remain impressed and energized by their infinite creativity, deep and varied personal passions, and unlimited capacities to change the world. So too am I inspired by our amazing Head of School, Dianne Drew, and world-class faculty, who help students reach their greatest potential. As we grow our global footprint, explore new paths, and meet new partners across town or around the world, we always ask ourselves: “Will this benefit our students?” If the answer is “yes,” then the challenge becomes bringing that value to our students.

  • Photo by Marcus Photography

    GARDEN HOUSE SCHOOL OF NEW YORK
    CO-DIRECTORS: MARY CANTWELL AND NATALIE WILLIAMS
    AGES 2-6
    40 SUTTON PLACE
    37 EAST 63RD STREET
    GARDENHOUSESCHOOL.ORG

    AWARD: OUTSTANDING NURSERY SCHOOL

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy and academic niche.

    Garden House School is dedicated to creating a caring, positive atmosphere for preschoolers. The program aims to bridge the gap from home to school by helping children develop a positive self-image and social skills. Our curriculum involves sensory, motor, perceptual, and language skills. Work emphasizes the process rather than the product, fostering a sense of accomplishment and pride. The Reading & Writing Program will enable children to develop these skills, which will enhance their learning and increase self-esteem. Children grow in predictable stages, yet the teachers treat each child as an individual, helping them to feel success without pressure. Garden House School’s mission is to provide a positive, first school experience for young children that will lay the foundation for their future.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    Our Early Academics begin at age 3. We are particularly happy with the achievements made with our The Little Readers program.

    What’s new?

    The School has implemented a chess program in kindergarten and enhanced our Artist of the Month program by creating a gallery where the children will view artwork. We will incorporate visits from artists, and the children will be able to create their own rendition of the artists’ work. We are proud of our continued efforts to bring the “real world” to our students in an age appropriate and joyful manner.

    What do you love about your school?

    Mary: I love the balance that our school achieves. Children are not only taught to be kind and respectful, but their minds also are stimulated intellectually and artistically. The best part about being Co-Director is meeting families from all over the world who play their part in our lovely community.

    Natalie: We educate the whole child. Our program offers a holistic approach in which the various aspects of a child’s development are embraced and nurtured. As Co-Director, I have the privilege to work and play with children, while simultaneously shaping their minds. I am always inspired.

  • Photo by Andrew Schwartz

    GREAT OAKS CHARTER SCHOOL
    PRINCIPAL: KRISTIN LEVINE
    6 (EVENTUALLY 6-12)
    1 MONROE STREET
    GREATOAKSCHARTER.ORG

    AWARD: NEW & NOTEWORTHY MIDDLE SCHOOL

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.

    Great Oaks Charter School’s mission is to create a rigorous, supportive middle and high school program ensuring graduates the requisite knowledge, skills, and habits to earn a degree from a competitive four-year college or university. To meet these demanding goals, we focus on school culture and discipline, as well as individualized tutoring two hours daily.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    One thing that makes Great Oaks vastly different is the Tutor Corps, made up of some of the nation’s top college graduates, which creates an extremely low student-to-adult ratio. Our unique approach to blended learning also sets our school apart. Each of our students and tutors is equipped with Chrome Books by which to access our online interactive learning portal aligned to the Common Core standards.

    What’s new?

    Our school has partnered with the Achievement Network, so students take benchmark assessments every 6-8 weeks that allow us to measure their progress and help us see how they’re performing against those in other schools. Our students are in the top third of the schools in the network and outperformed on every standard that our teachers have covered!

    What do you love about your school? What are its biggest challenges?

    When I joined Great Oaks, I had a strong vision: prepare students for college success using discipline, individualized tutoring, and relationships with families. Now, seeing that vision come to life, I love everything about being its leader. We have built a team of strong, dedicated educators; communicated to our students the importance of coming to school on time, in perfect uniform, with homework done, ready to learn; and built a community of families that support our school. Most of all, we are preparing our students for college. Attracting and retaining talented teachers and tutors is our school’s biggest challenge as we grow. With the best educators in front of our students, they will be able to reach our lofty academic aspirations for them. Our students deserve nothing but the best.

  • Photo by Stomping Ground Photo

    GRACE CHURCH SCHOOL
    PRINCIPAL: GEORGE P. DAVISON
    86 FOURTH AVENUE (PK-8)
    46 COOPER SQUARE (9-10; 9-12 IN 2015-2016)
    GCSCHOOL.ORG

    AWARD: RISING STAR (HIGH SCHOOL)

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.

    Grace Church School is a blend of tradition and innovation. We believe that there is a sequence of skills and information that needs to be passed on. We also believe that it is the teacher’s job to adjust how they teach to how the students learn as individuals in the context of a group, rather than from a fixed pedagogy. We feel strongly that students at all ages learn more when they work collaboratively. Just as importantly, we believe that students who have a strong sense of self will be more successful as students and happier as adults. One of the signature elements of GCS is how we build community. We are a caring school where students learn and grow in the context of a multi-generational community.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    Our international exchange program, which is available beginning in 7th grade, allows students to experience school and home life in China, Japan, India, France, and Spain—and also to host students in their homes from those countries. We have an extensive commitment to service and service learning throughout the community, and we have won countless awards for sustainability. The range of meaningful things that the students of all ages do to make a difference for others is awe-inspiring.

    What’s new?

    The high school program has an innovative schedule that includes longer periods as well as a Wednesday Lab Day, where the students are afforded the time to engage with their subjects more intensively. During what we call “March Madness,” our 10th graders’ regular classes are suspended for the month so that they may work to complete their year-long personal projects.

    What do you love about your school? What do you see as the school’s biggest challenges?

    There are no free-riders at Grace. Everyone chips in to make things work. The students feel responsible for the success of their school, the faculty go the extra mile, and the parents are an amazing resource. Our biggest challenge is growing the high school while maintaining the closeness of the community and the spirit of shared endeavor.

  • Photo by Andrew Schwartz

    HUNTER COLLEGE HIGH SCHOOL
    PRINCIPAL: DR. TONY FISHER
    7-12
    71 EAST 94TH STREET
    HUNTERSCHOOLS.ORG

    AWARD: SPORTS

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.

    Hunter College High School is a test-in school for academically gifted and talented students. Our students are afforded a rich, deep, rigorous core curriculum in all academic disciplines and in the arts. Our core program of study is supplemented by a wide variety of extracurricular and co-curricular opportunities in academics, art, music, theatre, and athletics, and [there’s] great flexibility for students in planning their own academic programs in the junior and senior years.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    Despite the intensity of the workload associated with their classes and along with their well-documented academic achievements, our students find successes in many extracurricular and co-curricular activities. Our fencing teams, chess team, creative writing programs, MathCounts middle school team, History Bowl team, and Science Research program produce individual and team honors at the city, state, and national levels on a regular basis.

    What’s new?

    This year, we have four SIEMENS Science Competition semifinalists and one finalist, a remarkable achievement for a school our size (approximately 200 students per grade). Last May, our girls fencing team won its fourth consecutive New York City championship.

    What do you love about your school? What do you see as the school’s biggest challenges?

    At about 200 students per grade, our school is small enough that I can walk the halls every morning and see essentially every single student in class. Individual students have a real impact within the school, but the school is also big enough to allow our students to discover new possibilities and make new friends throughout their six years here. I love watching 7th grade tweens become thoughtful, caring, accomplished young adults. I love working with the talented and dedicated faculty, who are always looking for new and better ways to allow students to reach their full potentials. As a public school funded through CUNY, we have been fortunate with our city funding, but we remain challenged by a facility which limits our ability to grow some programs we are most excited about, such as robotics.

  • Photo by Andrew Schwartz

    INSTITUTE FOR COLLABORATIVE EDUCATION
    PRINCIPAL: PETER KARP
    6-12
    345 EAST 15TH STREET
    ICESCHOOL.NET

    AWARD: OUTSTANDING MIDDLE SCHOOL/HIGH SCHOOL

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy and academic niche.

    ICE uses a project-oriented curriculum requiring students to complete authentic open-ended tasks within the core academic disciplines: literature, math, science, history, and foreign language. We use extensive group work to guide students’ social and emotional growth within an academic context. They are prepared to complete Performance Based Assessment Tasks that offer tremendous opportunities for individualized pathways to reach community-wide instructional goals. Students are continually challenged. The intended goal is having each student complete college-level work in the 11th and 12th grades.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    While all of our programs offer students tremendous learning opportunities, our music and science programs currently engage high school students in high-level authentic performance opportunities.Eleventh and 12th grade students develop their science investigation projects for submission to the New York Science and Engineering Fair. Several of our students had internships in NYU and CUNY neuroscience labs and have gone to colleges with developed neuroscience programs based on these experiences. Our music program uses a project-oriented approach to guide students to write music and lyrics for a new set of songs each year that are performed on stages in New York and overseas at international music festivals.

    What’s new?

    This year we started theater and computer programming courses. We hope that every student will leave school knowing how to perform basic programming tasks and that the most engaged and interested students will have the necessary foundation for college-level computer science courses.

    What do you love about your school? What do you see as its biggest challenges?

    I believe that we continually demonstrate that it is possible to do a lot with a little. We value the power of supportive relationships and make decisions about kids based on each student’s individual needs rather than policies. Our teaching staff is committed and operates in ways that will result in the most success. Treating each person as an individual and giving them freedom to work is a challenge, yet we believe in this core practice.

  • Photo by Stomping Ground Photo

    THE MANDELL SCHOOL
    PRINCIPAL: GABRIELLA ROWE
    PN-8
    795 COLUMBUS AVENUE (K-8)
    SEVERAL NURSERY LOCATIONS
    MANDELLSCHOOL.ORG

    AWARD: ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.

    The Mandell School provides a challenging educational environment through an integrated curriculum, a dedicated faculty, and innovative facilities. We believe that the pursuit of academic excellence is deeply connected to the love of school and joy of collaboration. It is our responsibility to ensure that our children’s environment accurately reflects the diversity of the world. Mandell uses both a traditional and progressive approach to teaching with an emphasis on experiential learning. The school’s mission supports the concept that each child has a unique learning style.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    One of the ways Mandell strives to make a positive impact is by reducing our operational carbon footprint. We used eco-friendly products to construct our schools: recovered glass, homasote, certified wood from sustainable harvests, solar-powered sinks, flooring from recycled rubber tires, and metal shelving from 100 percent post-industrial waste. Our facility includes a state-of-the art science lab, hydroponic lab, living vegetation wall in the cafeteria, 8,000-square foot terrace for urban farming, and chicken coop.

    What’s new?

    This past month, Mandell students presented their documentary on green space in urban environments, “Finding Green,” at the TEDxYouth Dream Big…Then Do It! conference at The School at Columbia. Students learn to connect and collaborate in service via partnerships with organizations such as Manhattan Children’s Center, Asphalt Green, and Action Against Hunger. Through our annual service trip to a Dominican Republic orphanage, Orfanato Niño’s de Cristo, students come to understand that they can have a positive effect on the world. Since our first trip, the Mandell community has donated musical instruments, sports equipment, food, books, and basic necessities worth more than $100,000.

    What do you love about your school? What do you see as its biggest challenges?

    Our school enables our children to connect deeply with the world around them. Our curriculum does an amazing job of setting exceptionally high standards while giving children many opportunities to prove to themselves just how capable they really are. There is no test that you can give a child to get them to understand their impact on the environment or to motivate them toward lifelong environmental stewardship. Our greatest challenge is to educate and nurture successful adults, not just excellent test takers.

  • Photo by Stomping Ground Photo

    METROPOLITAN MONTESSORI SCHOOL
    HEAD OF SCHOOL: BRENDA MIZEL
    N-6
    325 WEST 85TH STREET
    SEVERAL NURSERY LOCATIONS
    MMSNY.ORG

    AWARD: OUTSTANDING NURSERY & GRADE SCHOOL

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.

    Metropolitan Montessori is based on the educational philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori and offers challenging academics in a nurturing and compassionate environment. Our program develops children academically, socially, and emotionally by building resilience, independence, responsibility, self-motivation, and respect for others. Our graduates attend highly selective New York City public and independent schools.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    We have an outstanding elementary arts program. Upper elementary produces a musical every year. Our visual arts program features a variety of art forms, including ceramics, woodworking, and three-dimensional sculpture. Violin instruction begins in kindergarten. Our school has been a member of the Black Rock Forest consortium since 2005, and we send our children to the forest in Cornwall, NY, every week for nature, science, and outdoor activities. We have a 6th grade ex-missions program which offers in-depth and individualized support to graduates and families, helping them to identify ongoing schools that will meet their needs.

    What’s new?

    As we look forward to celebrating our 50th anniversary in 2014-2015, we are enjoying the largest lower elementary enrollment ever. We are proud of the diversity in our school. This year, 40 percent of our families identify themselves as African American, Asian, Latino/Hispanic, multiracial, or Pacific Islander. More than 30 percent of our faculty and staff identify themselves in these ways. Our school also enrolls many international families, with more than 25 countries represented.

    What do you love about your school? What do you see as its biggest challenges?

    Our children are happy to come to school where teachers love and mentor them. The teachers are enthusiastic and adjust their teaching to meet the needs and abilities of each child—no squeezing a square peg into a round hole, but rather respecting the individuality of each child and challenging or supporting them in the learning process. With inspirational teachers and engaged families, I know that my school makes a difference in the lives of children. I am challenged to continue to meet the evolving knowledge of how children learn and what skills they will need to be successful in the future.

  • Photo by Stomping Ground Photo

    PS 59 BEEKMAN HILL INTERNATIONALSCHOOL
    PRINCIPAL: ADELE SCHROETER
    K-5
    233 EAST 56TH STREET
    059M.R9TECH.ORG

    AWARD: OUTSTANDING PRINCIPAL

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.

    PS 59 is a vibrant learning community that inspires and challenges all of its members to be kind, considerate, inclusive, hard-working, curious, and responsible citizens. We are dedicated to embracing our beautifully diverse learners for all of their gifts and talents.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    In a time of intense and competing demands, we are holding tight to our commitment to a rich and well-rounded arts and enrichment program to complement our rigorous academics. In addition to our core music and studio arts programs, we have partnerships with extraordinary cultural arts partners. Through the New York Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers program, for example, the full orchestra has actually has performed our fifth graders’ compositions. We dance with New York City Center and Arts Connection. Our students perform Shakespeare with teaching artists from Creative Stages. Just last week our kids were scatting along in our auditorium with an ensemble from Jazz at Lincoln Center.

    What’s new?

    We finally have the building of our dreams. We are now housed in one of the newest school buildings in New York City. We are thoroughly enjoying our gorgeous library, glittering auditorium, spacious rooftop playground, gym, music and art studios, and plenty of classroom space. Perhaps best of all, we have a newly invigorated science program that is turning our kids on to the wonders of the lab. The students’ excitement is palpable.

    What do you love about your school? What do you see as its biggest challenges?

    I love that PS 59 is filled with staff who describe themselves as “teaching nerds.” They burn to create better and more flexible ways to inspire and motivate kids. They coach them toward becoming determined, persistent and confident learners who know that their words and actions can make the world a better place. The sight on 56th Street each morning makes my heart soar: students positively run down the block—often straight into each other’s arms. They can’t wait to get started on their day. Like all schools, we are confronted with the challenge posed by high-stakes testing. So we’ve learned to create classrooms that are flexible enough to accommodate the needs of all of our learners.

  • Photo by Andrew Schwartz

    PS 527 EAST SIDE SCHOOL FOR SOCIAL ACTION
    PRINCIPAL: DANIEL MCCORMICK
    K-1 (EVENTUALLY K-5)
    323 EAST 91ST STREET
    PS527.ORG

    AWARD: NEW & NOTEWORTHY GRADE SCHOOL

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.

    At PS 527, we believe in educating the whole child and preparing our students for success in a new and complex world. A Global Studies-themed approach exposes children to different cultures, heritages, and ways of life. We also pride ourselves on our inclusive culture with special education students learning alongside their general education peers.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    We are especially proud of our parental involvement and outreach. In terms of communication, our website provides families with a wealth of information. Each week, teachers send home a class newsletter, and the principal and PTA send an email to keep parents abreast of important school news. We have established music and art instruction, as well as Spanish, chess, physical education, and social skills lessons—and partnered with 92nd Street Y, Asphalt Green, the Guggenheim Museum, Music for Many, and Art Farm in the City.

    What’s new?

    PS 527—The East Side School for Social Action—is especially proud of the origins of our school name and what we do to make sure we live up to its expectation. As students engage with their Global Studies-themed units, they learn about problems and challenges facing countless people—then do something about them through community service, making the world a better place.

    What do you love about your school? What do you see as its biggest challenges?

    The aspect I love the most is how we are truly building a small community school that is personalized for every child. This helps to provide a real sense of ownership and pride to the families, and life-long connections amongst children and adults. I love being the principal because we are all working together to help children succeed and prepare for future education by building a foundation of academic and social success that children will carry with them to middle school and beyond. The biggest challenge we will face is sustaining the small, personal touch as we grow larger. I know we will ultimately be successful at this.

  • Photo by Andrew Schwartz

    QUEST TO LEARN (M 422)
    CO-DIRECTOR & PRINCIPAL: ELISA ARAGON
    CO-DIRECTOR: ARANA SHAPIRO
    ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL: EVAN KLEIN
    6-10 (EVENTUALLY 6-12)
    351 WEST 18TH STREET
    Q2L.ORG

    AWARD: SPECIAL EDUCATION

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.

    Quest to Learn empowers and engages students by connecting rigorous learning through innovation. Quest transforms the underlying form of games into a powerful pedagogical model. Games work as rule-based learning systems, creating worlds in which players actively participate, use strategic thinking to make choices, solve complex problems, seek content knowledge, receive constant feedback, and consider the point of view of others.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    The Quest to Learn curriculum is co-created by our teachers with game designers and curriculum specialists. Our science classes are spectacular, allowing students to solve real world, authentic and complex problems. Our Math Olympiad team has won first place in the city three years in a row. We offer early regents courses to our 8th graders with a pass rate of approximately 97 percent.

    What’s new?

    Quest to Learn has an established middle school and has started to build our upper school. We are extremely proud of the rigor and innovation of our program design and the creativity and successes of our students and teachers.

    What do you love about your school? What do you see as its biggest challenges?

    Quest to Learn has an energy that is unlike any school we have been a part of. The amazing faculty cares deeply and ensures that all students are receiving the high quality education that they deserve, as well as creates experiences that ignite their creativity and passion for learning.

    Ours is a community of educators, families, and students united with a common goal of building a school that allows students to experiment, problem solve, and develop their voices. The energy and commitment of this community makes it an amazing place to be everyday. We ask teachers to teach in ways that are exciting, but also challenging and often unfamiliar, requiring them to dramatically shift their practice. As we grow, it is essential that we continue to attract and hire the very best educators, because they are what make Quest a remarkable school.

  • Photo by Andrew Schwartz

    THE RENAISSANCE CHARTER SCHOOL
    PRINCIPAL: STACEY GAUTHIER
    K-12
    35-59 81 STREET (JACKSON HEIGHTS)
    RENAISSANCECHARTER.ORG

    AWARD: OUTSTANDING PRINCIPAL

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.

    Our mission is to foster educated, responsible, humanistic young leaders who will spark a “renaissance” in New York. Right away, our students are immersed in the arts and foreign language. We value the social-emotional well-being of our students as deeply as we do their preparedness for college and careers. We embrace all students, including students with special needs and those who are English language learners, and provide them with a progressive, rigorous, respectful, and happy learning environment.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    The College Bound program, Rensizzle Enrichment Week, Reading Support program, Global/Humanities course of study in middle and high school, Teens for Racial and Ethnic Awakening, and our Arts majors—these are just some of our programs that make us so proud of our school. We are actively developing our Advanced Placement program. We have a vibrant partnership with 82nd Street Education, a community-based organization that provides a comprehensive afterschool program to middle and high school students.

    What’s new?

    Renaissance High School earned a spot in the Daily News’ Top City High Schools and was awarded a best practice dissemination grant for our Global Humanities program. Renaissance will be working to improve physical, health, and nutrition education through a federal Carol M. White PEP grant. One of our many exciting partnerships includes a cohort of young women working with Sadie Nash. Recently, we became our own School Food Authority and are providing a top-notch food program to all our students.

    What do you love about your school? What do you see as its biggest challenges?

    Our school is 20 years old, and we have never become complacent. While we celebrate our achievements, we always strive to do better. Our biggest challenges are working toward meeting the new, more rigorous testing standards without sacrificing our values to provide a holistic and humanistic education for all students; we know that graduates are more likely to be successful if their education is well-rounded and provides them with the desire to be life-long learners and leaders. The education we provide must also enable our children to meet the demands of the global environment they are inheriting. Keeping pace with these changes is not an easy task, but it is one we fully embrace.

  • Photo by Stomping Ground Photo

    THE SAUL AND CAROLE ZABAR NURSERY SCHOOL AT THE JCC IN MANHATTAN
    PRINCIPAL: NOAH MENCOW HICHENBERG
    AGES 2-5
    334 AMSTERDAM AVENUE
    JCCMANHATTAN.ORG/NURSERY-SCHOOL

    AWARD: OUTSTANDING NURSERY SCHOOL

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.

    We are a progressive, play-based, and values-centered environment. We believe in eyes-, ears-, mouths-, and bellies-on learning. Our children engage in lengthy periods of open-ended exploratory play every day. Our values are informed by our Jewish identity and accessed through stories, traditions, and celebrations. We provide space for children to develop their own theories of the world. We strive to create lifelong learners who know that intelligence and knowledge are built through hard work, sustained effort, trying new things, and reflecting on mistakes. Our students make bold attempts at challenging tasks and learn from their bumps along the way.

    Tell us about a distinguishing program.

    Each day, our teachers prepare a Daily Reflection that is emailed home to our families. These reflections highlight a wondrous moment of learning and growth in the classroom. Teachers are able to go into the “why” and “how” behind the “what” of our curriculum, and parents use these emails as a helpful conversation starter with their child in the evening.

    What’s new?

    This year, we have increased our emphasis on professional development. We have created a series of speakers and panels to help us grow in our capacity to support children with different learning styles and paces. Additionally, we are initiating a new, homegrown strand of professional development termed “peer learning cycle,” in which our teachers regularly observe each other at work in their classrooms and share critical reflections afterward.

    What do you love about your school? What do you see as its biggest challenges?

    At The JCC, everybody feels at home. Our families engage with each other in evening study groups, morning coffee talks, weekend trips, and afternoon play dates. The impact that we have on each other is felt far beyond the walls of our classrooms and extends into all corners of our lives. As a school director and educator, my primary function is to advocate for a better future, for a society that is continuously working to improve the conditions of its members. We have the unique privilege of creating an environment in which our children grapple with values and develop identities that allow them to see themselves as change agents in the world. We advocate for our children to create and shape the world they will inherit.

  • Photo by Andrew Schwartz

    SCHOLARS’ ACADEMY
    PRINCIPAL: BRIAN O’CONNELL
    6-12
    320 BEACH 104TH STREET
    SCHOLARSNYC.COM

    AWARD: OUTSTANDING MIDDLE SCHOOL/HIGH SCHOOL

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.

    Scholars’ Academy is an accelerated grades 6-12 NYC public school that leverages technology and human capital in a structured manner to enhance student and adult learning. Students work in “scale-up teams” of three in every subject, where they solve problems, deconstruct or analyze texts, or perform experiments. Teachers flip instruction using screencasts and videos to enhance student learning, while students leverage iPads, laptops, and desktop computers to access information, collaborate on projects in the cloud, and complete online courses.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    As an accelerated school, middle school students complete three high school courses by the end of Grade 8. High school students complete up to twenty college credits by 12th grade. Our marching band has received many awards, and numerous Scholars’ artists have work featured in several New York City museums. The school founded a local middle school basketball league, and the girls’ basketball and volleyball teams have racked up several New York City Championship banners! To fulfill their service requirements, students pitch in at beach and park cleanups, volunteer at senior centers, and tutor their peers.

    What’s new?

    Scholars’ Academy most recently weathered the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. Over 60 percent of our students and more than 1/3 of the staff were rendered homeless or dislocated. Through all of the turmoil, the staff, students, and parents rallied and hung together. Fewer than 40 out of 1,250 students were lost from the enrollment of Scholars’ Academy as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Even more impressive, the school earned “A” Progress Report ratings for both its middle school and high school components, and the high school graduating class of 2013 posted a 100 percent graduation rate.

    What do you love about your school?

    I’ve visited countless classrooms in numerous schools over the years, and I can confidently and fairly state, with no insult to any other schools, that the Scholars’ Academy culture is the best I’ve seen. It’s energetic, positive, warm, collaborative, intelligent, hard working, and fun-loving. That’s what makes every staff member, student, and especially this principal look forward to going to school each and every morning. Leading in this environment is as great as it gets.

  • Photo by Karen Haberberg Photography

    SUCCESS ACADEMY UPPER WEST
    PRINCIPAL: CAROLYN ROBY
    K-3
    145 WEST 84TH STREET
    SUCCESSACADEMIES.ORG

    AWARD: RISING STAR (GRADE SCHOOL)

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.

    As a network of charter schools, we have the freedom to be innovative and creative in our instructional approach. Our schools are free public schools open to all students, but charter schools are given more autonomy than zoned public schools in exchange for greater accountability. This flexibility allows us to provide instruction that both supports and challenges all scholars. At SA Upper West, we prepare scholars to graduate from highly selective colleges, and college is a hallmark of our school culture. Exploration, creativity, and curiosity abound in our classrooms and inspire a love of learning.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    We offer science five days a week, starting in kindergarten. Our program is hands-on and discovery-based, and our scholars conduct their own experiments. They use the scientific method to investigate topics in life science, physical science, and earth science.

    We also offer special classes during the school day—visual arts, sports, or chess—which allow scholars to explore a variety of talents.

    What’s new?

    Several of our scholars just participated in a Success Academy Chess tournament against ten other SA schools and tied for fifth place (even against our middle schools)! Two of our 3rd graders came away with wins, and one went undefeated!

    What do you love about your school? What do you see as its biggest challenges?

    I am so proud of what our scholars have achieved. This is all thanks to the incredible school community created by our dedicated staff and supportive families. I look forward to reaching new heights and cultivating our special community even further through the rest of the school year.

    As the principal of Upper West, I get to be the leader of a diverse and exceptional group of scholars, parents, and staff members. We truly value teamwork, perseverance, and excellence every day! As our school grows, we will work hard to maintain our close-knit community by learning from each other and doing whatever it takes for our scholars to achieve.

  • Photo by Tashween Ali

    TALENTED AND GIFTED SCHOOL FOR YOUNG SCHOLARS (TAG)
    PRINCIPAL: JANETTE CESAR
    K-8
    240 EAST 109TH STREET
    TAGSCHOLARS.COM

    AWARD: OUTSTANDING GRADE SCHOOL/MIDDLE SCHOOL

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.

    Our core educational philosophical belief is that with hard work, perseverance, and support, all students enjoy learning and growing academically and socially. Students learn through the shared inquiry process, which helps them to build on each other’s ideas. Through this shared inquiry process, civil discourse is learned and the ability to listen, speak and write is strengthened. Consistent and supportive professional development for staff is also at the core of our educational philosophy. This is directly correlated to the success of our students.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    Along with a rigorous academic curricula, TAG offers a variety of enrichment programs during the day such as Latin, visual art, music, and technology (where students learn from keyboarding skills, Power Point, Prezi, and Scratch). TAG offers afterschool programs that include robotics, TAG News Broadcast club, glee/drama, Latin jazz band, wind ensemble, flag football, volleyball, and the Harvard Enrichment Program.

    What’s new?

    Based on the results on the Common Core Examinations, TAG was identified a one of the top 22 highest performing schools in the State of New York. As a result, in September 2013, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Dennis Walcott hosted a press conference at the school to acknowledge and congratulate the TAG Staff, students, parents, and administrators on the outstanding achievements.

    What do you love about your school? What do you see as its biggest challenges?

    I love the energy and the bustle of students coming to school eager to learn and dedicated teachers willing to teach. I love hearing students discuss text in the classrooms and show respect and gratefulness to their teachers. I love being the principal of TAG because at a school with a diverse population of students and staff members from most of the boroughs of NYC, I am able to promote and sustain a culture of respect and caring where every student feels valued. Our biggest challenge is to be better than we were last year, better than last month, better than last week, and better than yesterday.

  • Photo by Stomping Ground Photo

    VILLAGE PRESCHOOL CENTER
    DIRECTORS: SUZETTE BURDETT, JEFFREY RAMSAY, BRUNIE SURGET
    AGES 2-5
    136 WEST 10TH STREET
    VILLAGEPRESCHOOLCENETER.COM

    AWARD: OUTSTANDING NURSERY SCHOOL

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.

    The Village Preschool Center creates a joyous, nurturing atmosphere for preschool children. In this cheery setting, we introduce our students to serious academic concepts at an early age. We want our children to have only the warmest feelings associated with the words “school” and “teacher.” To this end, we maintain a five-to-one student to teacher ratio so that there is always a teacher to work with each child.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    For more than 30 years our daily French program has introduced preschoolers to a foreign language and to the realization that there are many ways for people to communicate. Similarly, our daily music program plants the seeds of a lifetime of joy through music. The science program piques the interest of our little researchers in things scientific. We make learning to read great fun. Our object is not simply reading for its own sake, but also creating a love of reading and books in every child. Our children go to kindergarten with a thorough foundation for reading readiness.

    What’s new?

    We have begun a new scholarship fund to assure that family finances never prevent qualified children from enjoying the benefits of preschool education.

    What do you love about your school? What do you see as its biggest challenges?

    Our first love is the children. We work with such delightful little people, and it is a privilege to give them a great base from which their cognitive life can develop rapidly and surely, their social and emotional intelligence can thrive, and their individuality and natural creativity can unfold and assert itself. Our challenge is the same that all New York City preschools face: the limited number of seats in ongoing schools for highly qualified candidates.

  • Photo by Stomping Ground Photo

    WEST SIDE COLLABORATIVE (MS 250)
    PRINCIPAL: JEANNE ROTUNDA
    6-8
    735 WEST END AVENUE
    WSCNYC.ORG

    AWARD: RISING STAR (MIDDLE SCHOOL)

    Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.

    West Side Collaborative nurtures the whole child, challenging students to develop into inquisitive, thoughtful individuals who can make meaningful choices and value their personal and academic growth. The curriculum builds student independence, nurtures creativity and challenges students to think critically, and analytically.

    Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

    We are the first recipients of the Elizabeth Rohatyn Award for School Innovation. As an iZone 360 Ambassador School, we provide workshops showing how creative scheduling and staffing can enhance personalized learning. As a Whitney Museum focus school, we collaborate on interdisciplinary arts projects. We are a technology-rich environment that balances blended learning experiences with other pedagogical models, enabling our students to become informed users and creators of digital media. Our school offers immersion weeks, such as iConnect and iInquire, providing in-depth learning in a focus area.

    What’s new?

    We are excited to have our 8th grade humanities course, Connections, be certified as a New York City Middle School High School Preparatory course. Our growing Thursday afterschool arts program with Studio-in-a-School, developed by our Parent Association, received a city council grant for the second year. Our debate club competes in the New York City Urban Debate League. This year we are also recipients of a City Council Reso A grant to enhance our technology resources.

    What do you love about your school? What do you see as its biggest challenges?

    Each day, our students bring humor, curiosity, and a genuine caring for each other. I’m continually impressed by their creativity and openness, concern for friends, solutions to problems, performances, and conversations that help us understand the challenges of adolescence. In addition, working alongside thoughtful, creative and intellectual colleagues adds to my experience as leader. We keep our focus on children, their families, and how we can best build each individual’s skills and talents while weaving together our community. One of the greatest challenges is how to continue to work in this personalized and creative way in an increasingly bureaucratic educational system.

Comments (1)

Leave a comment