better together

Two co-directors, no principal: A day in the life of shared leadership

PHOTO: Annie Ma
Devon Eisenberg, left, looks over graduation ceremony plans with co-director LeMarie Laureano at the Young Women's Leadership School in the Bronx.

Devon Eisenberg and LeMarie Laureano first met as founding teachers at a middle school in the Bronx. The two women built a strong friendship in and out of the school, where they co-taught a math class together. In 2012, they took on an even bigger team effort — founding and running their own school: the Young Women’s Leadership School of the Bronx.

Rather than assign themselves traditional roles like principal and assistant principal, they call themselves co-directors and divide responsibilities equally. Laureano oversees the humanities, while Eisenberg works more closely with science, technology and math. They share an office, desks facing each other, and even use a joint email account.

Other city schools are also experimenting with non-traditional leadership models, despite some reports of resistance from the city. For their part, Eisenberg and Laureano say they’ve been inspired by what collaboration brings to their school.

Laureano and Eisenberg say they make all major decisions together. Letters to parents are signed by the both of them, and they attend district meetings together.

“The number one thing is that they have an equal voice in everything, a united front,” English teacher Julissa DiLone says. “It’s not like you can go to mom when dad says no.”


9 a.m. — Setting up the ceremony

As the school year winds down, Eisenberg and Laureano are ironing out the details of eighth-grade graduation. The school currently serves sixth- to ninth-graders and will add a new grade every year until it goes all the way through 12th grade. The majority of eighth-graders will continue on to ninth grade here, but a handful are leaving the school.

At the morning meeting, the co-directors review the logistics of the ceremony at the conference table in their office. Girls will pick up their gowns, yearbooks and tickets this afternoon in the gym. As Eisenberg and Laureano talk over the details, teachers wander in and out on their breaks — the co-directors’ office also serves as teachers lounge.


10:12 a.m. — Graduation rehearsal

Eisenberg heads into the auditorium downstairs to oversee the rehearsal. As she watches, the eighth-grade girls file across the stage and practice shaking hands with teachers.

Eisenberg and Laureano try to make themselves accessible to students throughout each day.

“Maybe it’s because there’s two of them, but they seem much more personable,” says Josephine Lewis, a ninth-grader who was in the first class at the school. “But we also always see both of them around, so it’s not just the fact that there’s two.”


10:25 a.m. — Wrapping up the year

Laureano finishes the end-of-year teacher reviews in the shared office. While most were completed earlier in the month, the last teacher was delayed until today because his wife just had twins. In the hallways, pictures of the twins and congratulatory messages hang on the walls.


11:52 a.m. — Checking in

Eisenberg stops for a quick meeting with another teacher on staff. A majority of classes are led by co-teacher teams who work together, as Laureano and Eisenberg once did, to develop curriculum and teach lessons. Students, parents and teachers say the school’s emphasis on collaboration trickles down to the students — a few just proposed a new club that would have co-presidents.


12:30 p.m. — Yearbooks and memories

Eighth-graders end the day in the gym, where they pick up yearbooks and graduation gowns, but no caps. Since moving up from eighth grade just involves changing classrooms for most girls, Eisenberg says the school sticks to a smaller ceremony.

“It’s a nice chance for them to get pictures and see the girls who are leaving, but we try not to make a big deal of it,” Eisenberg says. “We tell them, ‘When you graduate high school, when you graduate from college, then we’ll have a big celebration.’”


12:41 p.m. — End of a day, end of a year

Laureano addresses the eighth-graders gathered in the gym. These girls will be the school’s second class of ninth-graders as it grows to fill out grades 6-12.

Community Associate Charisse Lewis, whose daughter is a ninth-grader at the school, says having two principals “shows young girls that two women can be bosses with a common goal. It shows that two women can lead without one being less than another.”

The New Chancellor

Tell us: What should the new chancellor, Richard Carranza, know about New York City schools?

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
A student at P.S. 69 Journey Prep in the Bronx paints a picture. The school uses a Reggio Emilia approach and is in the city's Showcase Schools program.

In a few short weeks, Richard Carranza will take over the nation’s largest school system as chancellor of New York City’s public schools.

Carranza, who has never before worked east of the Mississippi, will have to get up to speed quickly on a new city with unfamiliar challenges. The best people to guide him in this endeavor: New Yorkers who understand the city in its complexity.

So we want to hear from you: What does Carranza need to know about the city, its schools, and you to help him as he gets started April 2. Please fill out the survey below; we’ll collect your responses and share them with our readers and Carranza himself.

The deadline is March 23.

buses or bust?

Mayor Duggan says bus plan encourages cooperation. Detroit school board committee wants more details.

PHOTO: Denver Post file
Fourth-graders Kintan Surghani, left, and Rachel Anderson laugh out the school bus window at Mitchell Elementary School in Golden.

Detroit’s school superintendent is asking for more information about the mayor’s initiative to create a joint bus route for charter and district students after realizing the costs could be higher than the district anticipated.

District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told a school board subcommittee Friday that he thought the original cost to the district was estimated to be around $25,000 total. Instead, he said it could cost the district roughly between $75,000 and a maximum of $125,000 for their five schools on the loop.

“I think there was a misunderstanding….” Vitti said. “I think this needs a deeper review…The understanding was that it would be $25,000 for all schools. Now, there are ongoing conversations about it being $15,000 to $25,000 for each individual school.”

The bus loop connecting charter and district schools was announced earlier this month by Mayor Mike Duggan as a way to draw kids back from the suburbs.

Duggan’s bus loop proposal is based on one that operates in Denver that would travel a circuit in certain neighborhoods, picking up students on designated street corners and dropping them off at both district and charter schools.

The bus routes — which Duggan said would be funded by philanthropy, the schools and the city — could even service afterschool programs that the schools on the bus route could work together to create.

In concept, the finance committee was not opposed to the idea. But despite two-thirds of the cost being covered and splitting the remaining third with charters, they were worried enough about the increased costs that they voted not to recommend approval of the agreement to the full board.  

Vitti said when he saw the draft plan, the higher price made him question whether the loop would be worth it.

“If it was $25,000, it would be an easier decision,” he said.

To better understand the costs and benefits and to ultimately decide, Vitti said he needs more data, which will take a few weeks. 

Alexis Wiley, Duggan’s chief of staff, said the district’s hesitation was a sign they were performing their due diligence before agreeing to the plan.

“I’m not at all deterred by this,” Wiley said. She said the district, charters, and city officials have met twice, and are “working in the same direction, so that we eliminate as many barriers as we can.”

Duggan told a crowd earlier this month at the State of the City address that the bus loop was an effort to grab the city’s children – some 32,500 – back from suburban schools.

Transportation is often cited as one of the reasons children leave the city’s schools and go to other districts, and charter leaders have said they support the bus loop because they believe it will make it easier for students to attend their schools.

But some board members had doubts that the bus loop would be enough to bring those kids back, and were concerned about giving charters an advantage in their competition against the district to increase enrollment.

“I don’t know if transportation would be why these parents send their kids outside of the district,” Angelique Peterson-Mayberry said. “If we could find out some of the reasons why, it would add to the validity” of implementing the bus loop.

Board member LaMar Lemmons echoed other members’ concerns on the impact of the transportation plan, and said many parents left the district because of the poor quality of schools under emergency management, not transportation.

“All those years in emergency management, that drove parents to seek alternatives, as well as charters,” he said. “I’m hesitant to form an unholy alliance with the charters for something like this.”