“Derek leaned back in his chair, collecting his thoughts. He paused, then arrived at the key thing he wanted to know before hiring the staff for his new school: Do they love kids? It was the school’s first year in existence, he noted. They had to build a culture before they could build good classrooms. ‘If we look for great teachers, but they have the wrong attitudes,’ he said, ‘we’re ruined.’ On the other hand, if they were able to hire the right people with the right attitude—even if their approach to teaching wasn’t ideal—they would be on the right track…”
Excelsior Preparatory High School: A Case Study of the First Three Years was written for New Leaders for New Schools and the NYC Department of Education. The case study examines the challenges faced by Derek Jones, a public school principal, in the first three years of his leadership of a new small high school he founded in Queens, New York.
In tracing Derek’s story, the Excelsior study provides practical lessons from the experience of a start-up principal with guiding questions for readers to examine how he approached hiring and professional development of staff in year one, conflicts in building school culture in year two, and creating a data team to engage in action research in year three.