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.”