Opening the Doors to the Future for Students

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Outstanding Principal By Erin Brodwin When a parent arrives in Principal Jackie Albers' office to ask whether her student should take classes in music or math, her answer is both. Albers, who oversees an elementary charter school in central Harlem, said the most important aspect of her job is making sure students who leave her school are prepared for the real world. "When we talk about our curriculum, we call it joyful rigor," Albers said. "It's challenging, but it's also engaging and fun." After a two-year stint teaching English at a public school in the Bronx with Teach for America, Albers said she was drawn to a career in the charter school system. "As the leader of a charter school, I'm able to see the needs in the curriculum and make adjustments immediately," said Albers. "On any given day, I'm able to walk in and watch a teacher give a math lesson, and then talk with him or her afterward about what went well and what we can work on. It's an atmosphere of open communication," she said. Harlem Success Academy 1, with its 60 teachers and 616 students-or scholars, as the school calls them-is a lot to manage. But for Albers, who has adored school since setting foot in her first English class, leading the Harlem elementary is a labor of love. "School opened doors for me," said Albers. "I want to play a role in making sure other students have those opportunities as well." Albers' school is one of 15 public charter schools managed by Success Academy Inc., a nonprofit that relies on funding from government and private donations. As a public charter school, the campus selects its students at random each year through a lottery. Students attend classes daily from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., more than two hours longer than students at traditional public schools. In addition, the school allows its students to choose from a diverse range of classes, from music to chess, art, sports and science. "It's important to us that school is fun for our students. We want it to be something they look forward to," said Albers.

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