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Building collaborative schools in Brooklyn

PS 177 Chapter Leader Antonella Lombardo (left) and Principal Ann Marie Lettieri Maria Bastone

PS 177 Chapter Leader Antonella Lombardo (left) and Principal Ann Marie Lettieri show the spirit that serves them well.

In a first-of-its-kind event, cooperation between educators and administrators in Brooklyn’s District 21 was showcased as a best practice at a Celebration of Collaboration on June 2.

The event, held at IS 98, was organized by UFT District 21 Representative Kate O’Hagan and District 21 Superintendent Isabel DiMola. O’Hagan was inspired by a similar event in District 14.

Celebration of Collaboration brought together 29 pairs of chapter leaders and principals. Three teams of chapter leaders and principals who work exceptionally well together shared the secrets of their success with the district’s other chapter leaders and principals.

Chapter Leader Antonella Lombardo and Principal Ann Marie Lettieri from PS 177 in the Gravesend/Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn said part of their winning formula is involving the whole community and a shared appreciation for fun, whether it’s a Crazy Hat Day, Animal Print Day or a schoolwide field trip to Marine Park.

Doors are open to parents with Read Aloud events, multicultural fairs, Mommy (or Daddy) and Me music classes and English classes for parents at this Title I school where one-third of the school’s population is English language learners, Lombardo said. A school hiring committee of staff and administrators interviews incoming applicants “and together decide who we want to hire,” she said.

For Chapter Leader Joanne Bullaro and Principal Chiara Spagnolo of PS 100 in the Brighton Beach/Coney Island section of Brooklyn, kindness, respect, communication and trust are the shared values at their school.

“Even when we don’t agree, it gives us a chance to learn and grow and see each other’s perspective,” Bullaro said.

Chapter Leader Maria Belkadi of PS 212 in Bath Beach said she faced a unique situation when both the principal and the assistant principal at her school retired at the same time last June.

“I met with the new principal and AP numerous times over the summer,” she said. “We really built a communication bridge.”

Belkadi said she and her principal start each workday with a conversation.

“Mutual respect, open dialogue and the willingness to have the conversation” are key to their success, she said.

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