I recently had the pleasure to spend a morning at the Bronx Little School, an elementary school in my hometown of the Bronx, where I was a superintendent for many years.

It was clear that the principal, Beverly Urquiza, a graduate of the NYC Leadership Academy, has had a tremendous impact on the children and the adults in her community in her two short years as principal. She is leading a school that is academically focused and supportive of students and their families. She greeted every student we passed by name and engaged them in conversation. She could tell me where each student was excelling and where they needed extra support. In every classroom I visited, I saw and heard a real joy and enthusiasm for learning. Vibrant art work and student writing hung on the walls, and children and teachers were engaged in lively discussions. Principal Urquiza spoke highly of her team and the work they are doing together to make sure each student has the best opportunities possible. She is the first to acknowledge that while many students have made incremental improvement to basic levels of proficiency, most students are still below grade level. Their work is cut out for them but the groundwork has been set and they are optimistic about the gains their students will make.

Being a principal takes courage, commitment, and a clear understanding of the systems and structures that need to be developed to support student learning and tackle inequitable practices head-on.

October is National Principals Month. While at the NYC Leadership Academy, every day is devoted to school leaders and supporting them in doing this hard work, I am thrilled to use this month to share the stories of principals doing exceptional work, who put their students first and commit tireless energy and resources to supporting their staff in making every day about doing their best for students.

But don’t just take my word for it that principals matter. Listen to their students. Please take a few minutes to watch our short film, Power of Leaders, which features a dozen students talking about the impact their principals have had on their lives and takes us into their schools to see their work in action.

Do you have a principal you want to thank or recognize, or issues you want to raise connected to educational leadership? Join our conversation on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook (tag us on Twitter — @NYCLeadership – so we can share your stories broadly). #ThankAPrincipal #NationalPrincipalsMonth

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Irma Zardoya

President & CEO

Irma Zardoya has been President & CEO of NYC Leadership Academy since 2011. Born and raised in the Bronx, Ms. Zardoya has been an innovative agent for change on behalf of New York City public school students during her extensive career as a New York City education leader. Prior to joining NYC Leadership Academy, she served as a consultant to the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) in the role of Executive Director of the Office of Achievement Resources. In that role, she supported the launch of collaborative inquiry teacher teamwork citywide and rollout of the NYCDOE’s accountability tools.

From 2003 to 2006, Ms. Zardoya served as Superintendent of the former Region One in the Bronx, where she oversaw a portfolio of 134 schools. During her tenure, Region One demonstrated significant improvements in student achievement. She served as Superintendent of Community School District 10 in the Bronx, the city’s largest district. Under her leadership, District 10 was recognized as a successful, educationally progressive district strongly committed to leadership development and building an effective leadership continuum from teacher to superintendent. This work earned her district a five-year grant from The Wallace Foundation to support its comprehensive leadership development program.

Before joining District 10, Ms. Zardoya served as Deputy Superintendent of Community School District One on the Lower East Side, where she was instrumental in the development of “schools of choice,” an initiative that supported small learner-centered nurturing environments for students. She was principal of Community School 211, The Bilingual School, for nine years and, before that, the Executive Assistant to the Superintendent of Community School District 12. She began her career as a bilingual professional assistant and taught for seven years.

Irma was a member of the advisory group that developed the Principals’ Institute at Bank Street College in the late 1980’s, which addressed the need to recruit and develop minorities and women to become principals in the New York City educational system. She is also on the Governor’s Commission on Education. Irma taught as an adjunct professor at Bank Street College and Long Island University, and participated in the Educational Policy Fellowship Program, Washington D.C., Institute for Educational Leadership. She has served on the New York State Commissioner’s Advisory Council on Bilingual Education and the Advisory Council for the Center for Educational Leadership of the New York Urban Coalition. She earned her MS degree from City College in Supervision and Administration and a BS degree from Thomas More College, Fordham University. She also participated in the Superintendent’s Leadership Institute at Harvard University’s Kennedy School for Government.