the Superintendent’s Office: Betty Rosa
music echoes through the hallways of IS 101, an intermediate school
in Community School District 8 in the Bronx. Visitors can witness
group work at its best, with students sitting together engaged
in problem solving and discussion. More impressive, however, remains
the joyful, uplifting spirit of the school, whose establishment
in 1995 was partly due to the district’s efforts to celebrate
its diversity—District 8, located in the East Bronx, runs along
the Bruckner Expressway, extending from the Hunts Point peninsula
and the Morrisania area in the south, through the Soundview Classons
Point area in the center, and bounded on the north by Pelham Bay
and Throggs Neck.
the school is the academic home of students who call themselves
“ambassadors” as they are enrolled in IS 101 to represent the
elementary school they came from.
school binds us as one district,” says Betty Rosa, Superintendent
of District 8. “It does not matter what local community you come
from. The school is symbolic of our diversity [and it is] a place
that belongs to students. They own this school.”
IS 101 is only one of 30 schools located in District 8, which
serves about 24, 000 students.
first accountability is to the children in my community,” says
Rosa, who considers the role of the superintendent as that of
the “master teacher.” “My principals are my students and the district
is my classroom,” she says.
Her “lesson plans” stem from her own experiences as a teacher
and a principal, but most importantly from her own value system.
The core elements of these values appear in the form of a quotation
written on a blackboard in her office: “Go to the people, live
among them, plan with them. Start with what they know and build
on what they have. And, when the current leaders leave, the people
will say we have it.”
serve the people, the children and the community…I am here to
provide guidance,” says Rosa, adding that she considers her job
“the most humbling experience” and is guided by one of her grandmother’s
sayings, “the best kind of person is the one that has humility…no
matter what your attainments.”
Although she remains committed to her values and acknowledges
that she is “a collection of her own experiences,” Rosa underscored
that she embraces the different characteristics of every school
and the leadership styles of principals.
school in my district is different,” she says. “[When I visit
a school] I always ask myself ‘if I was the principal in this
school would I run it this way? [The answer might be no], but
that does not mean what that principal is doing is wrong.”
She will take advantage of any opportunity to model for a principal
or teacher and when observing classrooms, or visiting occasionally
she takes over. When hiring new principals she looks for individuals
who are strong leaders with competitive spirits that know how
to teach children in different ways. The qualifications are similar
for new teachers.
look for teachers with content knowledge and an ability to reach
out to children. We look for teachers who want to enhance the
lives of children and teachers with a sensitive side for the struggling
child,” says Rosa.
On hot topics, like testing, the superintendent is bold and direct,
saying that a child’s life should not be judged by one snapshot.
“It’s a sad statement about what real learning is. We kill natural
curiosity in children,” she says.
She supports maintaining and enforcing standards for children,
as long as the learning process does take place and teaching is
not related only to the test.
have sterilized some of the stuff related to the joy of learning,”
she says, adding that it’s good to create frameworks as long as
they are not internalized. “I am a superintendent of children,
not of adults.”#
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