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Organizing Principal

In the South Bronx, Ramn Gonzalez gives a troubled middle school a kidcentric makeover
At Middle School 223, the day begins with principal Ramón Gonzalez in the hallway, greeting his students. He shakes hands, chides latecomers, slips an arm around a tiny girl's shoulders. "I like to make a connection with them," he says. "Let them know you're paying attention."
 
Outside, the streets are less caring. "My kids," as Gonzalez calls them, are Latinos and African-Americans facing poverty (90 percent qualify for free lunches), unstable homes (15 percent live in shelters) and the stresses of immigration (20 percent need help learning English).
 
He thought he would study law, but in his junior year a fellow inner-city student was arrested for a minor offense and suddenly had a criminal record. When lawyers get involved, Gonzalez reasoned, it's too late: "Kids need an education before they reach that point." So he earned master's degrees in education at City College and at Columbia University's Teachers College and  joined the city schools as a teacher.
 
This article appeared in the October 4, 2007 edition of the Smithsonian.com
 

Published Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2007

Organizing Principal

At Middle School 223, the day begins with principal Ramón Gonzalez in the hallway, greeting his students. He shakes hands, chides latecomers, slips an arm around a tiny girl's shoulders. "I like to make a connection with them," he says. "Let them know you're paying attention."
 
Outside, the streets are less caring. "My kids," as Gonzalez calls them, are Latinos and African-Americans facing poverty (90 percent qualify for free lunches), unstable homes (15 percent live in shelters) and the stresses of immigration (20 percent need help learning English).
 
He thought he would study law, but in his junior year a fellow inner-city student was arrested for a minor offense and suddenly had a criminal record. When lawyers get involved, Gonzalez reasoned, it's too late: "Kids need an education before they reach that point." So he earned master's degrees in education at City College and at Columbia University's Teachers College and  joined the city schools as a teacher.
 
This article appeared in the October 4, 2007 edition of the Smithsonian.com
 
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