April 1, 2015
The NYC Leadership Academy (NYCLA) is fortunate to welcome Reginald Richardson to our esteemed Board of Directors. Mr. Richardson is an 18-year veteran educator, currently serving as the Principal of New Rochelle High School in New Rochelle, NY. We recently spent some time with Reggie to learn more about him.
Q: You’ve been an educator for almost two decades. What influenced this initial decision?
A: That is an interesting first question. I actually stumbled into education while in law school studying juvenile justice. I was working in the Public Defender’s Office in Washington, D.C. when I realized that this wasn’t the right fit for me. I worked tirelessly to mitigate punishments for these kids but couldn’t make a substantive difference in their lives or the lives of their families. At the same time, I was working as a tutor and basketball coach. The time I spent with these kids was transformational for them. I’d help a student who wasn’t doing well and I would see him/her improve and begin to think about life after high school. That’s when I realized I needed to become an educator, because my interactions would be more profound.
Q: You’ve had the unique experience of participating in NYCLA’s Aspiring Principals Program. How do you think that shapes your role as a member of NYCLA’s Board of Directors?
A: I think I offer that authentic, on-the-ground voice of a school leader. I believe my role is to keep the organization and the board leadership focused on maintaining the mission and vision of the organization. I’ve seen with other organizations that it is easy to get stuck in the weeds during a time of expansion and I want to make sure that NYCLA stays true to advancing the work – which is to prepare and support passionate, high-quality educators.
Q: What experiences have shaped you most profoundly as a school leader?
A: My experiences at NYCLA were crucial in shaping me as a principal in terms of developing and connecting to my core beliefs as a school leader – that all crystalized during my participation in NYCLA’s Aspiring Principals Program. Before NYCLA, my leadership style was really reactive, meaning I dealt with what was in front of me at the moment. NYCLA taught me to be intentionally reflective and strategic and to continually pursue my own understanding of teaching and learning. During my residency, I was matched with a principal who showed me how to apply my learnings in real time. She was an incredible mentor – completely transparent and generous, showing me her whole process. She showed me that pursuing my core beliefs around equity and galvanizing a school community results in improved outcomes for students. She remains a strong ally and thought partner to this day.
Q: As you think about NYCLA’s future as an organization, what excites you?
A: Two things excite me about NYCLA’s future. The first is the new Teaming Model. I think it is really important to prepare and support school leadership teams. It can be a Herculean task when one individual is charged with single-handedly turning around a school. The Teaming Model is more reflective of what actually happens in a school because transformation is a collaborative process. Thought partners trained through the same models with a similar mindset will vastly increase the probability of success. I am also excited for NYCLA’s continued national expansion. NYCLA offers the perfect marriage between the theory of school leadership and the practical, day-to-day aspects of being a principal. NYCLA has the potential to change the national conversation around education leadership.
Q: You spend a tremendous amount of time working in your school and thinking about your school. What do you do when you’re not wearing the hat of a school principal?
A: I read a lot of zombie apocalypse novels. I love that stuff. I am a huge Walking Dead fan and I tore through the entire Game of Thrones series incredibly quickly. It’s fun to watch the shows now since I know what’s coming next.
Q: Is there anything else you want the NYCLA community to know about you?
A: Just that this work is very personal for me. I am a product of the New York City public schools system having grown up in the Bronx. Sometimes families are only able to give you so much and you need more. That’s where I believe schools can come in and make a big difference. Schools led by leaders with strong visions and highly capable skill sets can provide opportunities to kids no matter where they come from.