Taking Charge When You’re Called

Annie Seifullah, Principal of the Robert F. Wagner Jr. Secondary School for Arts and Technology
Grades 7-12 Located in Queens
APP Cohort 8 Graduate and Coached by Greg Tewksbury for 2 Years

our-impact-success-stories-1.headerAnnie Seifullah had her whole principalship lined up. She was approaching the end of her internship in the NYC Leadership Academy Aspiring Principals Program (APP) and Annie already knew what school she would be leading.  Annie had a clear path. Until the Friday she received the call that changed her life. Annie was asked to interview with a superintendent in Queens for a school that was in need of change. Later that night she received a second call telling her they wanted her to start as the new school leader that Monday morning. Annie didn’t know what school it was; she only had the address.  Before making the decision Annie called Ilene Friedman at NYC Leadership Academy as well as her principal mentor. Both said the same thing: “You go where you are called.” 

That first Monday Annie walked into her new school at 7:45 with no idea what to expect. By the end of the day, Annie realized that she was exactly where she needed to be. Annie will tell you that a school leader is intricately connected to their students’ success. She came to this understanding first by being a teacher who saw firsthand how school culture (and success) rests with the school leader, and then by becoming a school leader herself.

Annie credits her success as a school leader to her time at NYC Leadership Academy. For her, being in APP wasn’t about preparing her for the logistics of running a school or understanding operations. Rather, she says, the program prepared her for “real life” – a life that requires flexible thinking, resilience, fostering social capital and being able to lead. 

As principal, Annie still teaches one class, 9th grade reading. She finds that teaching keeps her grounded in instruction and thinking about how to be better. She will tell you that if you believe you are good at your job, you aren’t doing enough. She thinks about her students who’ve just graduated and how they are making it in their first year of college. She thinks about her teachers and how to help them focus not just on data and accountability, but also on what it was like to be a student in high school. This empathy helps teachers provide instruction and an environment that are right for their students.  It’s been nearly  three years since Annie got the late night call and she’s been Taking Charge of Change ever since. 

Using Data to Drive Change

Sabrina Cook, Principal of Pablo Neruda Academy for Architecture and World Studies
Grades 9-12 Located in the Bronx
APP 7 Graduate and Coached by Sonia Bu for 3 Years

Graduates of NYC Aspiring Principals Program leave the NYC Leadership Academy with the skills they need to drive change in some of the city’s toughest schools.  Sabrina Cook, Principal of the Pablo Neruda Academy for Architecture and World Studies, is a graduate of APP’s seventh cohort. She is committed to fostering student success through evaluation of school performance. 

As an instructional leader, Sabrina uses school data to analyze the effectiveness of lessons and programming. This analysis guides her approach to professional development for her staff.  She leverages this data to transform school systems and structures to prevent the sources of problems, rather than simply alleviating the symptoms.  She gained the confidence at NYC Leadership Academy to develop personal relationships with school staff. These relationships provide a strong foundation for the sometimes difficult conversations necessary to achieve the best outcomes for her students.


Driving Success in Partnership with the Community

Chrystina Russell, Principal of Global Technology Preparatory Middle School (Global Tech Prep)
Grades 6-8 Located in Harlem
APP 5 Graduate and Coached by Ann Wiener for 4 Years

our-impact-success-story-chrystinaThe success of Global Tech Prep Middle School is truly a community effort. Just ask Chrystina Russell, principal of this middle school in Harlem.  A graduate of NYC Leadership Academy’s APP program, Chrystina hit the ground running. She opened Global Tech Prep Middle School and fostered a community of trust among students, their families and her staff. Chrystina hired diverse staff with close ties to the community, so that each student could find a mentor within the school.  Chrystina worked hard in those formative years to provide individual attention to each family, a commitment that remains part of her work today.

Chrystina personally took charge of change when she expanded the school day to 6 PM after the first year of operation.  “If I think about my own educational experience, I was able to participate in so many after school activities. That’s often what motivated me to go to school.” By expanding the school day, Chrystina was able to provide students with homework help, access to technology and other enriching activities.  Global Tech Prep Middle School partners with Citizens Schools, an organization that connects business leaders with low-income students to work together in apprenticeships and afterschool programs.

Chrystina cites her NYC Leadership Academy training as the catalyst for her success, because it prepared her for the reactions that can come with implementing  significant change.  The Academy taught Chrystina to listen to feedback and to adapt her solutions to address the concerns of various stakeholders, while never forgoing her central mission of giving students what they need to succeed.


Developing Young Women Leaders through Single-Sex Education

Talana Clark-Bradley, Principal of Young Women’s Leadership School of Brooklyn
Grades 6-12 Located in Brooklyn
APP Cohort 2 Graduate

our-impact-success-story-telanaTalana Bradley, Principal of Young Women’s Leadership School of Brooklyn, is dramatically changing the life trajectories of low-income girls. When she talks about the power of single-sex education, it’s hard to believe that she wasn’t always an advocate. In fact, when she first joined NYC Leadership Academy’s Aspiring Principals Program (APP), she had plans to lead a traditional public school in one of NYC’s high need communities. However, for her APP school-year residency, NYC Leadership Academy placed her at the Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem (YWLSH). She approached her assignment with some trepidation. But within minutes of experiencing students’ enthusiasm to rejoin their school community after summer break, she was sold. Talana notes “My residency experience exposed me to a school committed to developing young women leaders, which ignited my passion to be a transformative leader.”  

After graduating from APP in 2005, Talana became the principal of a traditional public school in the Bronx, but in 2008 the Young Women’s Leadership Network tapped her to lead the Young Women’s Leadership School of Brooklyn (YWLSB), a new school that would be the fourth public all-girls school in its network. Talana started with 74 promising young women. Today, Talana leads a fantastic school with 350 students in grades 6-12 and 24 educators. The school plans to expand to serve 567 young women. 

Talana credits the NYC Leadership Academy and her time in the APP program with giving her the freedom to evaluate her purpose and discover what drives her.  Although Talana already had her school leader certification, she felt that “something was missing.” “My time at the Leadership Academy was intense.  They really opened me to new ideas and helped me identify my core values as a school leader and how I could inspire educators and garner the respect of the families I would serve.   I wouldn’t trade my time in APP for the world.


Boosting Achievement and the Student Experience

Vincent Gassetto, Principal of the Academy of Applied Mathematics and Technology
Grades 6-8 Located in the Bronx
Coached for 3 Years by Charles Glassman

Middle school principal Vincent Gassetto is making significant gains in student performance in spite of the fact that his school is in the poorest congressional district in the United States. 90 percent of his students qualify for Title 1. In his first three years, working with his NYC Leadership Academy coach, Vincent has changed the culture of his school – aesthetically and in terms of achievement. His coach connected him with other city schools to learn how to provide a warm, art-enriched environment for his students—an environment that boosts morale for staff and students alike.  He collaborates with his NYC Leadership Academy coach and data expert to connect student performance to curriculum development.  Vincent and his departmental team rewrote the humanities curriculum to reflect student strengths and weaknesses.

Students from such extreme poverty rarely get to experience the arts and culture in the ways their wealthier counterparts do. Vincent has incorporated common core standards and student achievement goals into a year-round curriculum, which has given him the space to transform the student experience. By the time they graduate 8th grade, students will have taken a full year each of art, music, and dance, exploring these options for high school and beyond. They come to understand that education is their tool for success.  Students travel to NYC museums and Broadway shows. They go outside New York City to Philadelphia and Washington DC.  Vincent takes every opportunity he can find to increase their exposure to technology as well. Vincent takes charge of change by opening the door to the enrichment opportunities that the world has to offer his students.