the Superintendent’s Office
Albanese-DePinto, Senior Superintendent of High Schools
Senior Superintendent of high schools, Rose Albanese-DePinto knows
that, in New York City, building space is worth its square footage
in gold. Having spent a year at 110 Livingston, home of the now
defunct Board of Education, she’s also appreciative of her new
workspace in the renovated Tweed Courthouse.
you seen our cubicles?” she asks visitors, proudly leading them
into a large room with high ceilings where over a dozen people
sit typing and talking on telephones in small, shiny desks, separated
from one another by low partitions.
The corporate-inspired enthusiasm and competitiveness instilled
by Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein is palpable in the shared
offices and open conference spaces. The rooms are literally abuzz;
no conversation is private.
it’s easier,” says DePinto. All of the high school superintendents
work in one room, and the Chancellor is on the same floor, so
when DePinto needs to speak with him, she says, “I just run into
DePinto started out in the schools as a teacher of Spanish and
Italian. She served as Principal of William Cullen Bryant HS in
Queens, then as Deputy Superintendent of the Brooklyn and Staten
Island high schools. When the Carnegie, Gates and Open Society
foundations gave the former BOE $30 million over a year ago, earmarked
to reform the city’s high schools, then- Chancellor Harold Levy
brought DePinto on board to head the effort. Her current responsibilities
also include training and supervising the six high school superintendents.
A core team, says DePinto, composed of representatives from the
Department of Education, the teacher’s union, New Visions for
Public Schools and the other sponsoring foundations, “forged the
agenda for high school reform.” Together, they are responsible
for the opening of an astounding 28 new high schools this past
The city, of course, did not construct 28 new buildings. The majority
of the new schools are housed in existing high school facilities.
Martin Luther King, Jr. for example, is being phased out. After
2005, students will graduate from either the MLK HS for Law, Advocacy
and Community Service or the MLK HS of Arts and Technology. Roosevelt,
Taft and Morris are similarly being carved into smaller, theme-based
Ten of the 28 new schools are located in the Bronx, with another
nine scheduled to open next fall. Looking at graduation and drop
out rates, says DePinto, “the greatest need was in the Bronx.”
really looking to strengthen all of the high schools in New York
City,” she says, “so that there are high schools of choice in
all the boroughs.”
The theme-based small schools model (“the ideal size . . . is
500 to 600 students”) is, according to DePinto, “what parents
and, really, what children want.” It’s also the only model that
New Century grant recipients are allowed to follow.
As for the themes, which range from straightforward ideas like
dance and business to the more lofty ‘global education’ and ‘social
justice’, DePinto asserts, “the bottom line is that these are
academically rigorous high schools.”
should be evidence of [the theme] in all the core curriculum,”
she explains, “in addition to having a very special sequence of
courses,” as well as internship opportunities, guest speakers
and the like.
partners’–corporations, non-profits and universities–have pitched
in as well, offering internships and other opportunities for students.
Three schools were opened on CUNY campuses. High schools at CCNY,
Lehman and York colleges, which admit students based on their
Specialized HS Admissions Test scores, allow students to complete
the credits necessary to earn their diplomas in three years, using
their fourth year to take college courses.
Even in the face of new standards imposed by No Child Left Behind
and increasing Regents requirements (the class of 2005 will have
to pass five exams with a score of 65 or above in order to receive
their diplomas), DePinto recognizes that it is unreasonable to
expect all high school graduates to go on to college.
Career and technical education schools, as vocational schools
are now called within the Department, are “dually challenged,”
she says, since students must prepare for the Regents exams at
the same time that they complete
their technical training. “These sequences are quite rigorous
and they require a lot of time. These kids are there nine or ten
periods a day, if not more, because they have this dual
DePinto affirms her commitment to making the technical schools
into schools of choice as well, challenging the public perception
of them as “dumping grounds” for poor students. Of the 18 technical
schools in the city, several applied for the new state certification
to grant diplomas in specialized areas. Nine programs have now
been approved for certification, and DePinto expects that another
nine will be approved by the end of the year.
Specialized instruction, coupled with academic rigor in a small
school setting, DePinto believes, is the key to improving New
York City’s high schools.
was principal of a very large school. I loved my school; however,
I know that I lost kids. Not all of my kids graduated from my
school and that really disturbed me.”
The new schools, she says, all boast 93 percent attendance rates
After all, before the city’s students can be taught to ace standardized
exams, fix a computer or dance in toe shoes, they have to walk
in the door–and then want to come back.#
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