Leadership is one thing. Inspiring, instructional leadership is another. For over 29 years, Principal Landeau has served students in New York City’s public schools in several capacities ranging from teacher assistant to his current position as Master Principal at George J. Ryan Middle School 216. With strong commitments to communication and collaboration and an unending well of instructional experience, Principal Landeau believed in the power of hard work that would make a difference for students.
When Principal Landeau joined Ryan in 2004, the school was one of New York City’s lowest performing schools. He quickly transformed the school into one of the top middle schools in the city, and eventually to one of the top three percent in the entire state.
Principal Landeau believed that Ryan had to strive toward a vision of being the best middle school in the country. Taking cues from a background in organized basketball as a point guard, he recognized that multiple players are required to win the game. He invited school community stakeholders to create a shared vision for the school. He created a Sustainable Growth Team consisting of teachers, assistant principals, and parents. The team focused on instructional and community growth with the goal of creating a school community that fosters creativity, innovation, and continuous learning by all stakeholders, including teachers, parents, administrators, and students.
Striving toward the school’s vision, Principal Landeau imparted the idea that sustainable effort was key to the school’s improvement. Everyone in the school community began to accept the mantra of “we work hard.” He empowered teachers to take responsibility for innovation and creativity with the caveat that they remain accountable to the school and students. Soon, teacher committees developed to improve instructional practice and foster peer sharing. The teachers had professional creative freedom to brainstorm ideas and share them with the administrative team. This incrementally created an environment that included professional book clubs and professional development that was co-facilitated by staff. The school held retreats where each member of the school community felt cohesion between administration and teaching staff. And the benefactors were the students.
Middle school students are developmentally unique. Striking a balance between rigorous academic focus and strong social-emotional support is often challenging. Under Principal Landeau’s leadership, Ryan School’s model is grounded in a keen understanding of adolescent development. He created a small school structure in one of the largest middle schools by instituting three distinct thematic academies. Students were matched based on their interests and teacher recommendations. Middle school students are compelled to test things out and find their own way. Teachers encourage Ryan students to collaborate, explore, and test ideas with peers through instructional approaches and with support from teachers.
Principal Landeau attended to the “ambience” of the school by focusing on the physical environment, ensuring all students felt a sense of pride and belonging. For students who needed extra support, he set up a network of boys and girls empowerment clubs and social-emotional supports. He also focused on creating multiple and frequent communication strategies with families. These included: weekly phone messages, newsletters, monthly parent workshops, coffee with the Principal sessions, and frequent town hall meetings for parents.
With numerous prestigious awards and accolades to his name, Principal Landeau established a clear vision and inspired a whole school community to work hard toward that end.