Margin Notes

France to dub four school leaders Principal Knight

150px-ordre_des_palmes_academiquesIt’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
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.



Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.