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France to dub four school leaders Principal Knight

It’s never a dull day at Tweed Courthouse: This afternoon, the French ambassador will visit to knight four city principals.

The four principals — Gisele Gault McGee of PS 58 in Brooklyn, Jean-Victor Mirvil of PS 73 in the Bronx, Robin Sundick of PS 84 in Manhattan, and Shimon Waronker of IS 22 in the Bronx — all head schools that have French-English dual-language programs. They’re being inducted at 3 p.m. into the Order of Academic Palms, which Napoleon founded to honor educators. The official insignia of the order is at right.

A press release from the French Embassy is below the jump:

French Ambassador to Honor Four NYC Public School Principals
GISELLE GAULT, JEAN MIRVIL, ROBIN SUNDICK AND SHIMON WARONKER
NAMED KNIGHTS OF THE ORDER OF ACADEMIC PALMS
New York, October 5, 2009-On October 20, French Ambassador Pierre Vimont will confer upon NYC principals Giselle Gault McGee, Jean Mirvil, Robin Sundick and Shimon Waronker the insignia of knight of the Order of Academic Palms, in the presence of New York City School Chancellor Joel Klein. The four New York City public school principals will be honored for their tireless participation in the development of French-English dual language programs in their respective schools-PS58 in Brooklyn, PS73 in the Bronx, PS84 in Manhattan and CIS22 in the Bronx. They have offered New York’s 300,000-strong French-speaking community (representing more than 55 different nationalities) access to much needed French-language curricula that will help their children maintain strong ties to their heritage while becoming true global citizens.

According to Shimon Waronker, one of the honorees, “We were fighting to help our children in underserved communities, like the South Bronx. Some students came from French-speaking Africa and were treated terribly by the children in the community, because of the language barrier, their culture and their darker-colored skin. The French dual language programs made these outcasts into superstars and their ‘challenge’ (of being French speakers) became their ‘asset’.”

Giselle Gault McGee, director of PS58 (the Carroll School), is a Staten Island native who has devoted her career to the NYC public school system, both as a teacher and as an administrator. Her school was one of the three forerunners to launch a French-English dual-language program in 2007, paving the way for the program’s current success.

Born in Haiti, PS73 Principal Jean-Victor Mirvil has been a steadfast proponent of the French language all his life. He studied French and French literature at the Sorbonne, and taught the language of Molière in the Bronx, before heading Brooklyn’s department of foreign languages. He has directed several public schools since 1998, and is currently the principal of PS73 in the Bronx.

Robin Sundick, who heads PS84, the Lilian Weber School, has launched multiple initiatives to help underprivileged children, particularly recent immigrants who need increased attention as they learn to settle in a new country. A strong believer in the value of cultural diversity, her school was one of the first to implement the dual-language program.

After a brief stint in military intelligence, Shimon Waronker was well equipped to tackle one of New York’s most dangerous schools. Under his leadership, Bronx’s Jordan L. Mott school (CIS22) experienced a resurgence and was one of the first three to offer the dual-language program. He is currently serving as Chancellor’s Intern.

The Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Order of Academic Palms) was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1808. A brilliant administrator, Napoleon appreciated the importance of education, and he established the honorary titles of titulaire, Officier de l’Université, and Officier d’Académies as awards for devotion and accomplishment in the areas of teaching, scholarship, and research. The award was then made a ministerial Order under the French Minister of Education and now has three ranks-Chevalier, Officier, and Commandeur.

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