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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

New principal hopes to end Clinton’s slide

By Maya Rajamani
Posted
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Santiago Taveras in his office at DeWitt Clinton High School. After taking over as principal in August 2013, he has worked to turn around the failing school.

At the entrance of Dewitt Clinton High School on Mosholu Parkway, a queue of stanchions has replaced the maze of metal barricades through which students previously entered the school. 

It is one of the many measures that new Principal Santiago Taveras is taking to change the school’s trajectory. 

For the past three school years, Dewitt Clinton has received F grades on its overall progress reports from the Department of Education (DOE). In the 2012-2013 school year, the school’s graduation rate was at 54.6 percent, lower than average for New York City high schools, and it received Ds for “school environment” and “student performance.”

The DOE warned the student body back in November 2012 that the school was in danger of closing after its progress reports were released, but a spokesperson for the DOE has since said that the there are no current plans to close its doors.  

Mr. Taveras took the helm last August, when the school’s former principal Geraldine Ambrosio retired after 13 years. After working as principal at Banana Kelly High School in the south Bronx, Mr. Taveras went on to serve as deputy chancellor for two years before moving to the private sector, where he worked as the vice president of Cambridge Education.

Since his arrival, Mr. Taveras says he has been working closely with students and faculty to foster a sense of community within the school.

Mr. Taveras said since students outlined their hopes for the year in letters he asked them to write, the educator has sought to listen to their suggestions. Replacing the metal barricades is one of several steps he has taken to decrease what some saw as the school’s previously hostile environment. 

The school was placed in the DOE’s Impact program as a dangerous school in 2010, but was removed at the end of that year. Current students and visitors still have to pass through a security check and body scanner to enter the school, but the pathway to the check has a less forbidding appearance now. 

“Quite honestly, it was more set up before like a prison, going through guards,” said Al Block, the school’s new public relations chairperson. 

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