A Handbook for Responsive School Leadership (Notice)

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As the founding principal of Marie Curie New York High School for Medicine, Nursing and the Health Professions, my mission is to ensure that our students receive a rigorous academic education, preparing them for the university and successful careers in health care in our communities. We firmly believe that students can learn and reach their full potential through the use of engaging and effective teaching and learning techniques, accompanied by viable resources to support their learning.

Marie Curie High School, or MCHS, is located in the Kingsbridge section of the North Bronx. The current population is 572 students, 108 men and 464 women. Of these, 116 students receive special related services and 53 are English language learners. The ethnic breakdown is 330 Hispanics, 194 blacks, 18 whites, seven Native Americans, seven Asians, nine Pacific Islanders, three Hawaiian / Filipino islands, and four “other” or multiracial. Our school participates in the Universal Meal Program, in which all students receive free breakfast, lunch and snacks. All of our students are classified as economically disadvantaged.

As an educator for the past 22 years, 11 of which as a high school principal, I have recognized the challenge of keeping the mission and vision of the school at the forefront of our strategies for teaching. and effective learning. This challenge began in earnest in 2009, when the student responsibility levels for New York State and City were increased to focus more on the academic progress of students.

As accountability for student progress increased, some teachers began to place more emphasis on teacher-centered instruction and prepare students for standardized exams, and spent less time trying to ” engage students in higher order thinking. This pedagogical change has contributed to the disengagement of students from school, leading a significant number of 9th graders to request transfers at the end of their first year. They not only felt that they were not receiving an education that truly engaged them, but also lacked a curriculum that fully and deeply prepared them for the medical and health professions.

These transfer numbers were a red flag that we were moving away from our school’s mission and vision. One way I approached the problem was to administer surveys to our students to gather constructive feedback on the school’s academic programs and culture. I have also instituted weekly student-level focus groups to stimulate dialogue about student concerns. After collecting and analyzing the data obtained, we shared the results with the school community, both staff and students.

Then, as a community, we worked in school and department level groups to brainstorm ideas and implement new academic, social and emotional strategies that will keep our mission and vision at the forefront of teaching. and learning.

Students and teachers advising the principal participate in a CPR training class, left to right: Jessica Román, senior;  April Colon, an elderly person;  Peta-Gaye Williams, Deputy Director;  and Diamond Joseph, university advisor.

One of the outcomes of these meetings was the formation of a School Well-Being Committee, made up of administrators, teachers, students and parents. The aim of the committee is to continue to support teachers by providing them with medical and health resources and subjects for interdisciplinary teaching.

We have also created a Food Partnership Committee, which educates the community on the nutritional value of foods served to students and addresses concerns about food and service. This committee established a salad bar, provided more fresh fruit and included vegetarian meals on the menu. Since these improvements, there has been an increase in the number of students eating their meals at school, which undoubtedly gives them the energy to be active learners in their classes.

The school has also expanded its partnerships with organizations that support our academic programs, extracurricular components, and experiential learning.

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One of these partnerships includes the Nursing Department at Lehman College, which offers graduate nursing students to co-teach classes with our health teacher. These health courses support students in their research on medical and health topics, as well as in organizing a student-led health fair each semester.

We have also partnered with Columbia University Teachers College Professor Christopher Emdin who works with our science teachers and students through the Science Genius program, one of the hallmarks of which is incorporating science topics in hip-hop. During staff professional development, teachers work together to create interdisciplinary units, lesson plans, and common assessments that integrate medical and health topics into the content of all subjects.

Likewise, we have strengthened our partnerships with the New York University Mini-Meds program, the Montefiore Hospital Medical Mentorship Program, and the Jewish Hospital and Home Internship Program.

Our Mini-Meds program gives students the opportunity to observe doctors and interns while on tour in NYU. The Medical Mentorship Program assigns a doctor from Montefiore Hospital to the school to teach an advanced biology course, in which students participate in biology labs and make field trips to various health facilities. Our internship at the Jewish Home and Hospital begins in the second year and lasts three years. Student interns in the hospital’s geriatrics unit, working with nurses to care for patients. Students also receive private tutoring, SAT preparation courses, and exam courses to become certified nursing assistants, pharmaceutical assistants, and emergency medical technicians.

By working collaboratively with all members of our school community to meet the needs of students and by expanding the reach and reach of our partnerships, we have made MCHS mission and vision once again the focal point of our education and our school culture.


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