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Ursula Annio, Principal, P.S. 748 Brooklyn School for Global Scholars – Brooklyn, NY

Photo of Ursula AnnioUrsula Annio has been the principal of P.S. 748, Brooklyn School for Global Scholars, since it opened in 2010. As the founder of the school, Principal Annio designed P.S. 748 as a choice application school for gifted and talented students, including special needs students, with a focus on promoting global citizenship and developing the whole child. Principal Annio hired staff and teachers uniquely suited to the school’s focus and interested in a collaborative working environment grounded in high expectations. Working as a team, Principal Annio and the new staff developed a school curriculum rooted in rigorous state learning standards. They also worked to develop a project-based learning model, bolstered by robust enrichment opportunities.

Principal Annio does not see herself, or the role of a principal, as primarily administrative. Rather, she understands the role of principal is to serve as collaborator, facilitator, instructional leader, motivator, and innovator. This leadership approach became crucial when the school experienced a significant shift in 2012.

That year, due to overcrowding in the district, Principal Annio was informed that P.S. 748 would need to transform from a choice application school for gifted and talented students to a zoned school, with a highly diverse and higher needs student population.  Committed to the school’s philosophy of high expectations and global citizenship, Principal Annio worked with her staff to adjust the curriculum and instructional approaches with an eye toward the school’s new student population. Together, they established three core student values that would underpin the work: develop persistence and patience while problem-solving, learn today and lead tomorrow, and pay it forward.  She led the school not only through a revision of instructional practices and programs, but in creating a schoolwide mindset to support the whole child, building on teacher strengths, and engaging families and the community.

Principal Annio’s approach to professional development focused on empowering teachers as innovators and collaborators. In partnership with her assistant principal, she set up common planning times and ensured ongoing and meaningful professional development opportunities to meet the needs of individual staff members. For example, to strengthen the team work done during vertical team planning times, Principal Annio employed a “May Mix-up” initiative where teachers switch classrooms with teachers a grade above or below them. This initiative provided teachers a new way to understand the continuum of learning and development and provided context for understanding the value of vertical alignment. Upon careful study of the common core learning standards, she and her team departmentalized grades 3-5, allowing teachers to deepen their instructional practice, take ownership and focus on subjects they are most passionate about to strengthen student learning and outcomes. This move further complimented the school’s project based, interdisciplinary instructional approach which integrates science and social studies content into literacy and math instruction.

Principal Annio doesn’t see the students in the building solely as learners; she sees them as members of families, communities, and society. Students are encouraged to act as global citizens and are rewarded for demonstrating positive behavior and civic excellence. She has expanded the school to the community by setting up parent academies to help family members understand the curriculum, support children’s social and emotional well-being, and to encourage their learning at home. In line with the school’s philosophy to nurture global citizenship, Principal Annio hosts family events and special school activities designed to recognize and celebrate the diversity represented in the school community.

Principal Annio’s leadership guided P.S. 748 through a significant transition by strengthening others around her and never wavering in her belief that all children are global citizens.