The New York City Schools That Can Roundtable was a collaborative success. More than 15 schools from the New York City area had school leaders present for a total of 28 participants. This was my first participation at a Roundtable, and after seeing for myself the collaboration that’s possible, I am even more excited and hopeful for the future of education.
The night began strong with powerful introductions by the school leaders describing their schools and recent accomplishments. It was a very impressive and diverse group spanning district, charter, and independent schools. Naomi Drouillard, Principal of Rosa Parks Public School in Queens, shared “we’re having a ball. We’re a multi-cultural school. About 22 languages are spoken there. We’re excited about being educators.” School leaders from PS 335 shared that the median income of their families was $15k, yet they’ve blown the achievement gap out of the water and have become Brooklyn’s only Blue Ribbon School. To what do they attest their results? “We serve up high expectations [in our cafeteria].” Principal Tanya John and AP Franklin Kim of the HS for Violin and Dance attributed success to their staff. “We have people that are willing to do the unconventional to get the job done. We take a lot of risks and tend to think outside of our arena.” Executive Director of the Young Women’s Leadership Network Anne Adler says at her schools, “it’s not about if you go to college, it’s about where you go to college.”
CEO and Board Chair Michael Druckman gave a presentation about the great gains that have been happening in other cities with active Roundtables and Regional Councils, including Milwaukee and Boston, to demonstrate the profound effect that meetings like this can have for schools and communities. “When you bring together quality schools, you have the powerful opportunity for tipping points. When you come together as a group, you can do collaboratively what no one school can do alone.”
The participants were then asked to share successes and challenges they’re encountering at their schools. The successes were diverse, from confidence in a strong community to building worthwhile partnerships with organizations to help with specific projects.
A couple of wonderful best practices emerged from the successes. Principal Joanne Hunt of the STC Member School Harbor Science and Arts felt that her school could attribute some success to instilling values of respect in the students. Rather than demanding students treat teachers and school leaders with respect because they are adults, students are taught that they must treat everyone with respect, because that is how all humans should treat each other.
John Barnes, Principal of Bronx Early Academy shared that having weekly teachers groups greatly improved culture for the teachers and their classrooms. First started as a group for new teachers, others began to join as they heard about its successes and the meeting eventually become a town hall. “It always felt like a football team. You never knew anyone’s birthdays, anyone’s [full] names. Town halls are ways to celebrate accomplishments. It avoids people feeling it’s us vs. them, top down vs. bottom up.”
Schools were unanimous – high expectations and a “no excuses” culture are required for success.
The participants shared challenges as well. School leaders expressed difficulty at finding dedicated staff and creating strong teams, as well as the hurdles of procuring funding and keeping the local populations involved in the school.
There’s been a positive response to the Roundtable and schools have expressed interest in following in STC Boston’s footsteps by participating in a Study Tour, tentatively scheduled for this June. Read more about Study Tours from STC Boston here. We are very excited to see the results of these new collaborations for the city of New York and its children.
Thank you again to all the participants. We look forward to your very valuable participation in our network and hope we can help with future challenges you encounter. As CEO Michael Druckman pointed out, “from a cross-sector perspective, there’s nobody else that’s doing this kind of work.”