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A Principled Principal

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Looks can be deceiving, as the old adage goes. When principal Shimon Waronker first showed up at J.H.S. 22 in South Bronx, parents and students alike weren’t quite sure what to make of his long beard, black hat, and yarmulke, characteristics of his faith as a Hasidic Jew. The school boasts a student population that is predominantly black and Hispanic, raising concerns about the potential for culture shock.

After graduating from the New York City Leadership Academy, Waronker took on the task of overhauling the school. He instituted a number of controversial changes, such as a school uniform policy and city-subsidized etiquette classes, that rattled many long-time teachers and drew attention from the community.

But the proof is in the pudding, as the New York Times reports. Standardized test scores are on the rise, giving J.H.S. 22 an A on its new school report card. Moreover, attendance rates are exceeding 93 percent, where classes were once lucky if more than a fraction of students showed, and the school is off the list of the city’s most dangerous. Most of the credit, according to Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, belongs to Waronker. “It’s an entirely different place,” said Klein. “If I could clone Shimon Waronker, I would do that immediately.”

10 Comments

I think it was Edmund Burke who wrote: "manners are more important than laws." This truth has been largely lost in Public Schools.

Yarmulkes off to Mr.Waronker!
His positive improvements prove that thinking out of the box works. Teaching kids to have self worth, maintain high standards,and mutual respect will only help them in life.


The teaser for this article says that the principal resorted to unconvenrtional methods to turn his school's performance around, yet there was almost nothing in the paragraph about that.
What's up with that tactic? I wanted to read about the unconventionality.

I am glad someone is this country has decided that good manners are necessary. As a teacher I constantly face rude and offensive behavior from students and get the excuse that it is culturally OK because that is the way they do it in Mexico. That is not acceptable in my book and I do not think that in Mexico rude and offensive behavior is tolerated in their schools either. So good job principal and Shalom

Here is the link to the original NY Times article on principal Shimon Waronker: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/08/nyregion/08principal.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2&oref=slogin

Just out of curiosity...what is acceptable as ok in Mexio, but consider rude and offensive here in the U.S.? I work at a school that is 99% Latino and the students are incredibly well-mannered.

The article about Shimon Waronker captured my attention. I was, however disappointed by the fact that the writer was not more specific regarding the unconventional practices that this inspirational principal has set in place. I would be very interested in hearing more!
Linda Bice
Nazareth College

I must be doing something right. I, too, stress manners and citizenship in my Grade 2 classroom in Paterson, NJ. My school has a uniform rule, too, but less than 2 percemt of our students wear them each day. Nearly all of these students are from my class, of which 14 of 16 pupils wear uniforms daily. In addition, nothing is granted without a please and things granted are taken away if not accopmanied by a thank-you. I also stress a healthy respect toward women, as I believe that kids, especially boys, have lost respect for their mothers, which means bad news for their future wives. And, yes, kids in the school address me as "Sir" or receive no response, and they're encouraged to issue proper salutations to any adult entering our classroom. My way isn't perfect, I suppose, but it beats the heck out of what I see all over.

It is very difficult to create curiosity and interest in learning science the present generation of children.

Congratulations to Waronker.

My children attended M.S. 22, and I am glad they now have a principal able to turn it around so that it is educational for the students instead of confrontational.

Grace Zarate

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