View Full Version : Bronx Sheldon Benardo: The Accidental Principal of P.S. 86 Kingsbridge Heights School

11-14-2011, 10:30 AM
From N.Y. Times (http://www.nytimes.com/schoolbook/2011/11/14/sheldon-benardo-the-accidental-principal/) by Maria Newman:
Sheldon Benardo has been the principal of Public School 86 in the Kingsbridge Heights section of the Bronx for 21 years. He grew up nearby and attended the school himself. The school, with almost 1,800 students, many of whom come from Spanish-speaking homes with low incomes, has earned an A in the last five school report cards.

In an interview, Mr. Benardo, 61, talked about how he got his job through the old political patronage system, but then grew to love it and care about his students and teachers. Good teachers, he said, are the backbone of a good school. Mr. Benardoís base salary was $145,000 in 2010. This interview was edited and condensed.

Q. What keeps this school at this level of achievement when so many around you donít do as well?

A. The real answer is getting the best teachers. I spend a lot of my time and a lot of my energy on finding the best people.

Q. Youíve seen a lot of changes in this system. What do you think this current era of management from the Education Department compared with how things were before, in your early days as a principal?

A. I can only speak for here. I donít have a broader view. I can only know how my job is today versus how my job was before and the job is so much better. So much better. You are responsible and accountable but now you have the authority to do things that you think are best so it makes you willing to be held accountable.

It used to be we were held accountable but we couldnít decide who the teachers were. How can you be held accountable when you canít determine whoís going to be doing what where and when? So I think that Klein empowered principals to the greatest degree.

But you also had to be ready for the consequences. That if your school didnít succeed according to their metrics, then you were going to have a problem.

Q. Before the institution of progress reports, how did a principal know how well a school was doing?

A. There was nothing. You were not held accountable, really. If too many people went to the district to complain about you, you had a problem.

Q. You have a lot of teachers from Teach for America, and youíre a training center for Teach for America. Has that made your school better?

A. Itís been great in so many ways. First, weíre getting people from the best colleges, which means not only are they well educated but also had other experiences in their lives, because their families are usually well to do, and theyíre well traveled, theyíve seen different things.

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