Something beautiful and inspirational happened yesterday in schools across America. Students were given a voice, and the world listened.

In the world of educational leadership, we all know how empowering it is to have a platform to make change. When I was a principal and a superintendent, I used my position to change classroom instruction and district policies in ways that would better serve our students. I see school and district leaders doing that every day across the country.

Yesterday, I was proud of the many school and district leaders who leverage their leadership role to give young people voice by getting out of students’ way and letting them lead as part of the ENOUGH: National School Walkout. How better for students to learn about civics and government and the power of voice than to actively engage in democracy? These students are our future, after all.

Throughout the day we heard from Leadership Academy alums on how their students were leading. In one middle school in Queens, 7th and 8th graders, with the support of school staff, organized a moving memorial in their school auditorium. One by one, students displayed the names of the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, extinguishing a candle to honor each person lost. Students were then given the chance to question the administration on its plans for preventing shootings at their school. A school in Jersey City held a “walk in.” The names of the 17 victims were read out and then students gathered in the auditorium, where 17 students formed a heart surrounded by a circle of middle schoolers. Students in Newburgh, NY, planted 17 flowers, and throughout the week schools are hosting town hall meetings for students to debate and discuss school and gun safety. Another school held a moment of silence, after which students wrote letters to President Trump and local representatives about their views on gun safety.

Our nation is in crisis. As educational leaders, let’s use this time as an opportunity to engage our communities in a common purpose that ensures the safety, health, and well-being of our students.


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.