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DIGGING DEEP, AIMING HIGH: An Educator's Lifelong Quest to Put Kids First by Steven Askinazi

DIGGING DEEP, AIMING HIGH: An Educator's Lifelong Quest to Put Kids First

by Steven Askinazi

282 pages
Digging Deep is a passionate memoir of my career as a teacher and administrator in the NYC schools and the challenges I faced. With the help of a dedicated team of educators, we defied the odds, raised the bar, and encouraged all kids to succeed.

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Category: Education
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About the Book
Digging Deep, Aiming High is a memoir of my career as a teacher and administrator in the New York City public schools. My experiences teaching in the middle school and my tenure working as an assistant principal and principal at the Manhattan Center High School for Science and Mathematics paint a contrasting picture. Both schools were dramatically different in terms of providing job satisfaction and student achievement.

It is remarkable how two different schools could produce incredibly different results when teams of dedicated educators truly put kids first. Manhattan Center attracted trailblazers who made it their mission to defy the odds, to raise the bar, to reject mediocrity and encourage all children to succeed. As a team, we decided early on to evaluate all of our programs and academic results by digging deep and aiming high to work toward the highest level of educational achievement for our kids. Failure was never an option, yet we realized that the bureaucratic challenges of working in a large school system and in an impoverished inner-city neighborhood would pose numerous roadblocks in accomplishing our goals.

The school was created in 1982 as a collaboration between the high school division and District 4 located in East Harlem. This project was an educational experiment, it being the first high school to accept students from anywhere in the city, as long as they were willing to make a commitment to the rigors of a college bound program and a longer school day. The campus was unique in that the school also housed an elementary school and junior high program in the same building. Working in this environment was especially gratifying for staff to be surrounded by kids of all ages and by students who were accepted regardless of their zip code. The parents and their children were especially grateful for the opportunity to attend a school of their choice, rather than be forced to accept their neighborhood school which, in many cases, had a poor academic rating.

What makes this story so noteworthy is that we, the stakeholders in this one special school, recognized that we would need to seek out numerous public and private partnerships to assist us in the task of educating our youngsters. With the abundance of resources and the generosity of time provided by organizations such as General Electric, NBC, Mt. Sinai Hospital, local universities(NYU, COLUMBIA, HUNTER COLLEGE) and the Children's Aid Society, a community based organization, to name a few, we were able to create miracles for kids. With the help of hundreds of mentors and many volunteers, together with teachers and auxiliary personnel working 10-12 hour days and often on weekends, we created a top-notch academic program. Our entire school population was accepted into colleges with prestigious scholarships and financial aid packages, thanks to the dedication of a very talented teaching staff.

Building the school from scratch in 1982 was far from easy. The growing pains of attracting competent staff willing to work collaboratively and dedicated leaders who were willing to work tirelessly to provide an environment for teachers to flourish were always a challenge. The explosive issues of funding for public education, desegregation, privatization of schools, the role of law enforcement and the involvement of the unions were very real then, and continue to be current problems facing educators today. Digging Deep, Aiming High will provide the reader with a thorough examination of the ways in which our team dealt with these controversies, as well as with the politicization of diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. It is my hope that our best practices in this one very unique high school will serve as a road map to the resolution of many of the obstacles facing our public schools nationwide today and tomorrow.

 

Reviews
"I never knew anyone to endure such lengths of pain and sacrifice for the needs of inner-city kids the way you did over 3 decades. I was blessed to have you as my teacher and, years later, as my daughter's principal."
- Constance Evans, student and parent
"Digging Deep is a very personal memoir of a truly dedicated professional who worked tirelessly to provide an environment for teachers to flourish and feel appreciated. It is a revealing account of how one such leader was able to attain success through self-reflection and commitment to making the job all about the students."
- John Ferrandino, Supervising Superintendent Division of High Schools, NYC Bd. of Education
"Steve teaches us what can be achieved using the power of collaborative practices in forming relationships and building community towards improving and transforming the lives of children. DIGGING DEEP should be required reading for anyone who aspires to be a school administrator."
- Manuel Munoz, LCSW-R, Former Children's Aid Society Director of Community Schools

 

 

About the Author
The author had a successful career association with the N.Y.C. public schools as a student, teacher and administrator. After several years teaching in middle school, Steve spent twenty-one years at Manhattan Center High School For Science and Mathematics. As a principal he created collaborative teams of educators, always putting kids first, and accepting nothing short of success.

 

 

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