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Lisa Ditillo Speroni, PS 253, The Magnet School of Multicultural Humanities Brooklyn, NY

Lisa Ditillo SperoniShaping a vision of success for all students is one of the focus of Lisa Speroni as a school leader. From the very beginning of assuming the principalship of P.S. 253, Principal Speroni had a vision for children to find a love of learning. She wanted children to become smart, independent, hardworking students, but realized that she could not do this alone. She motivated and empowered teachers to work side-by-side with her in this task.

P.S. 253, located in the Brighton Beach community of Brooklyn, is a multicultural magnet school with 955 students and over 50 languages represented. The success of this magnet school lives in its journey. A journey of fostering relationships, changing mindsets, and raising expectations. Throughout this journey, Principal Speroni has committed to closing student achievement gaps and embedding a shared philosophy that every student can and will reach proficiency, despite challenging circumstances. As a school community, it is this belief that binds the school, motivates everyone, challenges all, and ultimately defines the school.

For sixteen years, Principal Speroni has led with passion and vision. She promotes the mission of the school: provide every student with access to a rigorous, comprehensive academic and social emotional learning curriculum and the needed supports to reach and exceed standards and be successful.

With an instructional focus established at the start of each school year, Principal Speroni, equips each teacher with the tools, time, resources, and professional support needed to enhance students learning. Staff recognize, track, monitor, and celebrate the achievements of each struggling learner. Achievement for all students is acquired through various support systems within the school’s learning community. Such support systems include, but are not limited to: professional development opportunities with teachers (both in and out of classroom), expanding teachers’ understanding for what it means to be critical thinkers, deepening an understanding for teaching mathematics with a focus on conceptual understanding, the use of multiple approaches when problem solving, and finally, working with students to develop complex sentences in their writing. These are just to name a few.

Principal Speroni is a leader who works collaboratively with her school community to affect change. She creates conditions for parents and families to have voice in the decisions that impact their children’s education. This has not always been easy, as she leads a diverse community, serving families that speak over 50 languages, with varying cultural traditions, and perspectives.

Principal Speroni’s professionalism, compassion, and dedication to the P.S. 253 community was never so evident than in the days after Hurricane Sandy, which left the school and surrounding community a watery ruin. Her leadership and organizational skills shone during this disaster. She had personnel, along with relief agencies, combing the neighborhood checking on the status of students’ families. She created a distribution center at the school for basic supplies and for social-emotional support, as well as, scheduling weekend community events. In addition, she arranged for over 8,000 bottles of water to be delivered to the school, after parents expressed concern over the quality of the drinking water. Another parent stated that their children had no shoes, so she contacted Shoes That Fit and had arranged for the donation of over 500 pairs of new sneakers. Cantor Fitzgerald provided $656,000 in relief funds to students’ families. Principal Speroni and her staff worked tirelessly to ensure that the needs of the P.S.253 family, as well as staff, affected by Hurricane Sandy were met.

It is because of the high expectations Principal Speroni has set for the students, staff, parents, and the community that P.S. 253 is succeeding. Today, the students in the Brighton Beach community have become critical thinkers, strong readers and writers, performers, scientists, and artists, all working to improve the world around them.

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