Home Home Home About Us Home About Us About Us About Us /links/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html About Us About Us /archives/index.html About Us /archives/index.html About Us /archives/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html
Home About Us About Us /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html
About Us /archives/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html










Camps & Sports


Children’s Corner

Collected Features


Cover Stories

Distance Learning


Famous Interviews


Medical Update

Metro Beat

Movies & Theater


Music, Art & Dance

Special Education

Spotlight On Schools

Teachers of the Month


















New York City
June 2002

Inside the Superintendent's Office: Tony Sawyer
By Marylena Mantas

“I accept no less for any single child in this district than what I would for my own biological child,” says Tony Sawyer, superintendent of Manhattan High Schools.

Appointed superintendent three years ago, Sawyer considers himself an “educational facilitator” whose job is “to help principals succeed.”

“My job is to meet with everyone that has a concern,” he says. “I'll speak to everyone in my school district, including students.”

Maintaining a hands-on leadership style, the superintendent leads a district that serves approximately 42,000 students, of which 48 percent come from one of five boroughs other than Manhattan. One of the district's attractions is the large variety of options it offers to students, including 12 large academic-comprehensive high schools, six smaller theme-centered schools, two specialized high schools, four vocational high schools, 16 educational option high schools and nine (6-12 grade) high school and community school district collaborative secondary schools.

According to Sawyer, the district opted to establish theme-based schools more than a decade ago and he considers these schools a unique feature of the district.

“The advantages of theme-based school were identified early on,” he said. “Whatever the theme has been it has been our goal to make truth in advertising. The district has the responsibility to live up to the expectations of the parents and the students.”

According to Sawyer, the incorporation of the arts and technology in the curriculumn is an integral part of the disrict's philosophy.

“An interdisciplinary curriculum is at the heart of what happens in our schools,” he said. “The challenge is for content driven teachers to create a thematic approach through the arts. We strive to make that a reality.”

Sawyer underscored the focus placed on student achievement in the ninth grade. In an attempt to provide ninth graders with a proper support system, the district provides them with the best educators, thus reversing the traditional trends of specialized teachers targeting only higher grades.

“If you put the weakest teacher with the kids that have the strongest need you have a philosophy of failure,” said Sawyer.

According to Sawyer, the advantages of theme based schools and the focus placed on ninth graders produce positive results when combined with the district's efforts to offer smaller class size, an extended school day, courses to students who need support in certain areas and double periods of literacy and math for those demonstrating need. The results include an increase in the number of students who achieve high scores on the Regents, a decrease in the dropout rate and an increase in the graduation rate. Sawyer measures the district's success based upon the overall number of students who pass their classes, the district's ability to infuse the arts and technology into the curriculum and the attendance rate in the borough. He believes that “good attendance means good quality of instruction.”

He added, “the only way I know how successful a school is, is by speaking to the kids in a school about how they feel about their scholastic environment.”

His mission consists of “selecting really good leaders and then providing them with assistance to ensure their success.”

“You want leadership born out of a sense of pride,” he said. “You need someone that can go out and take the bull by the horns and make decision for his/her school. You need strong leaders that know how to create a team.”

At a time when the district $267 million budget might be cut by $20 milllion, Sawyer believes in keeping “the classroom sacrosant.” Necessary cuts will take place mostly on the district level.

When he interviews potential principals and assistant principals he looks for experience, commitment, charisma but most of all “how much they like children.”

“Because so much has changed, they might have all that and then I have to provide the professional development to support that,” says Sawyer.

Professional development in the Manhattan High School's district takes several forms. New teachers are pulled out of their classrooms eight times a year to attend professional development workshops. According to Sawyer, professional development is also done in partnership with external programs such as City College and Bank Street College.

“Experiential learning is at the heart of what we do,” said Sawyer. “Teachers are really enlivened. They leave feeling that they have something that they can take back to their classroom and implement.”

Principals who have less then three years of experience also participate in “the next step conferences” where they are guided on how to create a team, how to deal with u-rated teachers and more topics. All principals belong to a quad (a four principal team), which meets regularly to discuss and find solutions to concerns raised during their monthly meetings with the superintendent. “They form an alliance,” says Sawyer. “This creates trust.”#


Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001.
Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919.Email: ednews1@aol.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2002.