Gimondo has a unique understanding of the immigrant children
who attend the 30 schools under his jurisdiction. At the tender
age of 16 he came to New York from Italy. It was then that he
got his first taste of the citys public schools.
those days, they put all the foreign children in a speech class,”
he recalls. Gimondo quickly adapted to his new environment.
“Within six months I was able to understand what was going on.”
was one small advantageEnglish was his sixth language, after
his native dialect, standard Italian and the French, Ancient
Greek and Latin that he had studied in school. Gimondo has since
married a woman from Argentina and added Spanish to his repertoire.
Most impressively, perhaps, he has proven himself fluent in
the vocabulary of teachers.
Gimondo took over as Superintendent fifteen years ago, Community
School District 30 was overcrowded, with many schools performing
poorly. Years of restructuring and the addition of new spaces
have left the district operating at just below capacity.
percentage gain in students meeting math standards was the best
in the city this past year. This remarkable turnaround, he assures,
did not take place overnight. “Things don’t happen that quickly,
especially when you have a monumental systemand even the district
alone is very large.” Indeed, Gimondo’s office oversees the
education of some 30,000 children.
of his first moves was to reform the decision-making process.
He describes the previous administration as very traditional
and top down. Using the collaborative decision-making processes
of the Schools Improvement Project as a model, Gimondo organized
a retreat. All the districts principals developed a mission
statement for the district and agreed that each school would
submit an annual improvement plan.
everybody bought into that,” says Gimondo, describing some principals
as reluctant. Yet when the state began requiring similar documentation
under school-based management, District 30 was the first to
has placed a Teacher Center, run by its own staff member, in
every school in order to provide the kind of support that he
found lacking when he worked as a foreign language teacher years
ago. These centers are run in collaboration with the UFT with
state funds, while Gimondo covers the salaries of the Teachers
Center Specialists. He believes that these centers have been
instrumental in improving the schools performance.
teachers must have someone in the school who goes into the classroom,
sits down with them and works on the lesson plans, classroom
setup, management, etc.. They must feel it’s someone who’s not
here to rate me, but to see that I improve, that I become a
to Gimondo, this sense of trust is key. But that doesn’t stop
him from marveling at the results. “It’s easy for me to say
to a principal, improve here,” he explains, “but for them to
do it is remarkable. They do it out of professionalism and respect
for the profession, for each other.”
school in the district operates around a theme, with several
serving as model schools that new teachers visit as a part of
their training. PS 148, for example, is a model school for early
childhood education. This is one of the most diverse districts,
says Gimondo, with its schools serving children from 120 countries,
who speak some 80 different languages. He estimates that these
numbers include at least 6,000 English Language Learners.
meet the needs of this vulnerable population, six years ago
the district founded the Academy for New Americans, where newly
arrived middle schoolers can spend a year before being integrated
into the general classroom. There are also exchange programs
with Slovakia, Italy and other countries, in which students
from District 30 along with their parents live with host families,
go to school and learn about the culture. Students from these
countries then visit District 30.
is proud of the crisis intervention teams in place and plans
to expand them. After 9/11 members of these teams dealt with
issues that were affecting the children.
for such special endeavors has not always been adequate, and
Gimondo relies on a full-time grant writer. District 30 was
recently awarded $6 million from the federal government to run
a magnet school program. The arts, he asserts, remain a priority.
“To provide a well-rounded education is really what its all
about,” he says, “which besides the basics includes human values,
the arts and multicultural understanding.”#