Consistency - A Key to a Great Principal

The NY Times has been doing a series on today's principals.   Today's profile was of a woman, well, I'll let them tell you:

When she first arrived to work at this imposing brick building in March 1963, John F. Kennedy was president, ZIP codes were not yet in use, and the nearby Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was still under construction. 

She has outlasted more than a dozen schools chancellors, who made what she described as “little changes here and there,” and watched a student body dominated by the children of Italian immigrants transform into one that is 45 percent Asian-American and 18 percent Hispanic. 

Madeleine P. Brennan has been principal at Dyker Heights Intermediate School 201 in Brooklyn for 48 years.  Experts believe she may be the longest serving principal in the country.

What works for her?
  • consistent rules and consequences
  • dedicated staff
  • activities kids want like a Shakespeare fair and annual musical
Her thoughts on her students?

“Teenagers fascinate me,” Mrs. Brennan said in an interview in her pin-straight office. “They are peculiar ducks, neither fish nor fowl. And you have to love them to really work with them. If you don’t love them, you are up a tree.”

Hallways are silent during class, but Mrs. Brennan lets students scream and yell as much as they want in the cafeteria and between classes, to let out their energy. She specially orders them popular foods like French fries, roast chicken and mozzarella sticks.

Today, I.S. 201 has about 1,500 students, 68 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. It has earned A’s on the city’s progress reports each of the last three years and sends many of its students to top city high schools.  

Students are divided into tracks in the old-fashioned way, into honors, general education and special-education classes. But inside classrooms, they sit in groups and work on projects, instead of learning by rote memorization, as was the norm even a decade ago. There are electronic whiteboards and laptops. 

She will retire in 2013, after 50 years of public service.

(I became aware of this story because she was my husband's principal when he attended IS 201.)


Jet City mom said…
Writing on your desk is breaking a law?

I guess she means business.
But sounds like her style works for her-

No kidding they track- I wonder what happens to the kids who are " twice gifted"?

Still impressive data.

The General Education Students are grouped heterogeneously using standardized test scores as the initial criteria for grouping. Later, academic performance as reflected on report cards is given consideration as a more accurate predictor of the individual student’s potential for academic success.
Initially, students are assigned according to their reading test scores to Regular Classes or Special Progress (SPE) Classes. SPE Classes take exploratory Foreign Language Instruction. Regular Classes are provided eight periods of English Language Arts instruction each week.
At Sixth Grade level, additional periods in Reading and /or in Writing are scheduled weekly. Generally, the lowest performing students on the ELA Test are grouped in one class (Ramp-UP) on each grade level.

Comprehensive plan
dan dempsey said…
So Emeraldkity ... my guess is that Charlotte Danielson is not high on this lady's list of ed folks worth following.

I guess when one is a principal that long she can recognize a fad.
RosieReader said…
Man, I can't believe that in 2011 someone still thinks that women need to be in skirts/dresses to be professional. A judge tried that in Seattle 10-15 years ago and she was (rightly) pilloried.

Yeah, nice data. But we don't just care about data, do we?
Anonymous said…
From the article:
"Female secretaries, guidance counselors and assistant principals are asked to wear dresses or skirts; teachers may wear slacks, but not dungarees; men all wear ties."

My question is, are dungarees= jeans?
-weekly reader

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