Junior High School 22 in South Bronx, New York, has overwhelmingly black and Hispanic students - and it was failing badly: student attendance was so atrocious that in one class of 30, only 5 students had bothered to show up, gangs roam the hallway, and students attacked each other on a regular basis.
That was before Shimon Waronker, a Hasidic Jew with a beard and a velvet yarmulke and training in military tactical intelligence, stepped up to be its principal:
A fascinating report by Elissa Gootman of The New York Times about how one man could change a public school that was failing so badly it was put on a list of the 12 most dangerous schools in New York: Link - via growabrain
He also asked a lot from his teachers, and often they delivered. One longtime teacher, Roy Naraine, said, “I like people who are visionaries.”
Sometimes teachers balked, as when Mr. Waronker asked them to take to rooftops with walkie-talkies before Halloween in 2006. He wanted to avoid a repetition of the previous year’s troubles, when students had been pelted with potatoes and frozen eggs.
“You control the heights, you control the terrain,” he explained.
“I said, if you go on a roof, you’re not covered,” said Jacqueline Williams, the leader of the teachers’ union chapter, referring to teachers’ insurance coverage.
Mr. Waronker has also courted his teachers; one of his first acts as principal was to meet with each individually, inviting them to discuss their perspective and goals. He says he was inspired by a story of how the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitch spiritual leader, met with an Army general, then inquired after his driver.
“That’s leadership,” he said, “when you’re sensitive about the driver.”
Lynne Bourke-Johnson, now an assistant principal, said: “His first question was, ‘Well, how can I help you, Lynne?’ I’m like, ‘Excuse me?’ No principal had ever asked me that.”