New York

What Mayor Bloomberg told high schoolers today

Bloomberg visited Gregorio Luperon High School in Washington Heights this morning to mark the first day of school, his last as mayor. Here’s what he said, according to the city’s official transcript:

“Thank you for that kind introduction. Good morning, everyone. Buenos días. 

“When I was walking in, one of my helpers said to me, ‘Are you nervous for the first day of school?’ And I tried to remember back to the first day of school, but the first day of school for me was an awful long time ago and I have absolutely no recollection whether I was nervous or not.

“I graduated high school, would anybody like to guess what year I graduated high school? Nobody? I’ll tell you, 1960. I always get that. But I was lucky enough to go to a public school in Medford, Massachusetts. My recollection is there were 600 kids in the class and I have nothing but good memories.

“And I can remember two teachers I’ll tell you a little bit about. But I’ve been a lucky guy, I had a chance to go to a good school and we want to make sure that everybody in New York City gets that opportunity to go to a good school.

“I hope you all had a great summer – but not so fantastic that you’re not excited to be here.

“Today – the first day of school – really is a very special day in our city. The start of each school year now holds such promise: it’s an opportunity to reconnect with friends that you may not have seen since June, or to see that special teacher or coach, to get a strong start so that you can build on everything that you achieved last year.

“That’s why I’m so happy to welcome you all on this first day here at Luperón High School – especially our incoming freshmen, the newest Generals. Generals, that’s your mascot for those of you who just are joining here.

“I want to encourage every freshman to wear the name of your new mascot with pride. The name generals, of course, honors this high school’s namesake: the Dominican military leader who helped restore sovereignty to the island back in 1865.

“But I think that generals has another, more current meaning as well, and that is as a reminder of this school’s outstanding record of achievement over the last few years.

“Luperón High School’s graduation rate has risen more than 22 points since 2005, and is now at 79 percent. And thanks to Principal Villar’s leadership, his great team here and, of course, the hard work of its students, Luperón High has received an A on every Progress Report for the past six years. It’s an amazing achievement.

“When you consider that almost all of the students here only recently became New Yorkers and have had to learn English as a second language, this school’s achievements are even more impressive.

“I can tell you that I take a Spanish lesson every day, I’ve been doing it for years. And it the hardest thing that I have ever done, but I am committed to this. I’ve said I’m not going to die until I speak Spanish like a native, and my Spanish instructor, who’s a Colombian lawyer, tells me that I’m going to have a very long life at the rate I’m going.

“This school’s success is a testament to this community and to the close partnership of parents with this school’s teachers and administrators. I think it’s also a testament to the combination of higher standards and education reforms that we’ve put in place – here at Luperón High, and at schools throughout the five boroughs.

“Achieving success begins with expecting success. Our core philosophy has always been that when it comes to education if we raise our expectations, the students will meet them.

“At the same time, we’ve made the investments and reforms necessary to help those students get there. That includes building the modern facility. It’s a 21st century building for a 21st century education.

“I remember standing with Principal Villar back in 2007 when we broke ground to begin building the school that you’re sitting in today. Back then, Luperón High was located in a converted factory on 181st Street. That building had no gym, no music rooms, no auditorium, and no science labs. And today, given what you have, it’s really hard to imagine it.

“So it was a very proud day when I joined your principal and teachers here in ‘08 at the very first day of classes at this building for the new high school.

“Soon, you’ll have to head to your first classes. And by day’s end, many of you will have received your first assignments. I can tell you this: the work is not going to be easy – it’s not supposed to be. But I believe in you, and your teachers believe in you.

“So when a science experiment is particularly tough or your math teacher assigns problems that take what seems like hours to solve – don’t give up. Keep at it.

“Your teachers are going to challenge you to stretch yourselves and work hard because that is the only way for you to succeed in the next grade, and after you graduate, and through your lives.

“I know firsthand what a great teacher can make. I hate to admit, but when I was a student at your age I was not a great student. As a matter of fact, I was basically a straight C student, I always say I made the top half of the class possible. You’ve got to think about that, I was in the bottom half all the time.

“But I admit that, like you, I was fortunate to have some great teachers – and one teacher in particular that I remember cared about me and pushed me to succeed, he was my history teacher, Mr. Lally. I don’t know whether he’s still alive, he would be very old today if he is.

“He had a way of making events and people of the past come alive, and that meant something to me. It brought history out of the textbooks and into the real world.  And it was one of the first times I really connected what I was learning in school with what I knew I would need for the rest of my life.

“His passion was contagious; I think it’s fair to say I caught it. He made me a better student. He got me interested in ideas and eager to understand and communicate them.

“All of you have the potential to do exactly the same thing – all of you in this room have the potential to do anything you want if you work at it. So study hard – estudien mucho, as my teacher would say to me. Make this year the best year yet.

“The only piece of advice I can give you from somebody who’s about to be unemployed in another three months is you’ve got to work hard. Your future is in your hands. If you really want to make something out of it you can. And if you don’t, then you’re going to look back some day and say I wish I had.

“You want to have a good time, you want to have lots of friends, you want to play sports, you want to have lots of exposure to the arts, but you have to be able to communicate with people and work with people. And that’s what this school is going to teach you.

“Now, let me present someone who has been at the forefront of our educational reforms from the beginning. He now leads our efforts to prepare every student in our system, a million one hundred-odd thousand kids for success. He celebrated a birthday over the weekend, and I know there’s no better present for Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott than seeing our kids at school ready to learn.

“Dennis, happy birthday.”

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

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.”