In just nine years of existence, Eleanor Roosevelt High School on the Upper East Side has earned its second Blackboard Award for Outstanding School. Since local residents rallied together for a community high school, Eleanor Roosevelt has met the challenge.
The school"s administration continues to strive for excellence and improve the school based on parent and student feedback's the very idea on which it was first founded. As its seventh graduating class prepares for their final semester, Eleanor Roosevelt has earned recognition for establishing itself as a reputable and academically challenging environment for teenagers.
â€œIt really speaks to the work of the community, said Principal Dimitri Saliani, who has worked at Eleanor Roosevelt since it first opened. â€œThe teachers, students and myself all come here to put in our greatest efforts.
Saliani, 42, began at the school as a social studies teacher before becoming assistant principal in 2004. Now as principal and the school"s sole administrator, he runs a tight ship and stresses the school"s motto acronym: ACE, which stands for academics, community and ethics. Faculty stress the importance of community service and making ethical decisions, hoping the students will excel beyond the classroom as distinguished people and community members.
â€œThere"s a real intentionality about the ACE approach, said Matthew Haiken, a school board member whose daughter is currently a sophomore. â€œIt"s not all about the academics; it"s very well-rounded.
Recently, students participated in a charity design program called CANstruction to help feed the city"s hungry. Their structure built from food cans stands at the World Trade Center as the first entry in the program by a city high school.
Parents are happy to find that academics don"t have to suffer to maintain this balance. Students who succeed at Eleanor Roosevelt demonstrate a strong dedication to learning and, according to Saliani, take home about two hours" worth of homework each night.
â€œOur kids are committed young learners, he said. â€œThey expect to be challenged.
Of the 6,200 students who listed Eleanor Roosevelt as one of their top choices on their high school applications last year, 125 were granted admission. Enrollment now exceeds 500 students's a big jump from the 105 when the school first opened. The school continues to grow, but class sizes remain between 20 and 30 students for core subjects.
The school day ends at 3:30 p.m., but doors often stay open until 6 p.m. Roosevelt offers an extensive selection of after-school programs, the most popular of which is Model UN. Saliani often grants students permission to start their own clubs, including the cheerleading squad (which made headlines for participating in the Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk) and the upcoming Asian Appreciation Club.
â€œThe high school experience goes beyond the classroom, said Saliani, citing a two-thirds participation rate in after-school programs. â€œWe really want the kids to be able to explore other interests. Success breeds success.
Susan Carr, co-president of the Parent-Teacher Association, said Saliani"s efforts to respond to the student body have exceeded her expectations.
â€œWhen a junior last year suggested we weren"t preparing our students enough in grammar, before you know it, the principal got it all together, said Carr, whose daughter is now a senior. â€œEvery freshman and sophomore now has to take a grammar course in addition to the English course.
The school relies heavily on parent and student input. A monthly newsletter started by Haiken last year, as well as the principal"s weekly letter to the school community, keeps parents informed and appreciative.
â€œWe feel like we won the lottery in a lot of ways, said Marybeth Walsh, who shares the PTA presidency with Carr.
The faculty strive to provide focused attention for each student through the school"s advisory program, where students stay paired with an advisor for all four years. Ninth-grade advisory meetings focus on adjusting to high school, sophomores focus on community service and juniors on looking ahead to college. The college preparation continues well into the 12th grade, with counselors guiding students through the application process.
â€œMy daughter"s relationship with her teachers is incredible's they really know her, said Carr. â€œIt"s bittersweet that she"s graduating. I just don"t know how to separate myself from the school.
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