Albany honors for two men during Cuomo's State of the State address

| 22 Feb 2012 | 04:27

Brian Rosenbloom of Monroe recognized for leading his NYC high school’s turnaround, By Nancy Kriz ALBANY - Educators are quick to put their students’ accomplishments in the spotlight, but on Wednesday during Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State speech, that attention was shifted to Brian Rosenbloom of Monroe and his achievements as principal of the Chelsea Career and Technical Education High School in Manhattan. Cuomo’s speech, before 2,500 people in the Empire State Plaza’s Convention Center, marked the first time since Gov. Al Smith was in office during the 1920s that the State of the State address was not in the Capitol. Holding it at a different venue allowed greater seating accommodations for invited guests which, for the first time, included anyone from the general public who had a ticket. Rosenbloom and his wife Laurie, the librarian at North Main Elementary School, were among those invited guests hearing Cuomo say it was time for the state to rethink the services it provides, deal with its overspending problem and call for a “fundamental realignment” of state government. And Rosenbloom, who has taught in New York City schools for 20 years and has been Chelsea’s principal since 2008, was among the handful of people singled out by the new governor during his speech. Cuomo consistently used the word “transform” during his comments, as he spoke about the need to change state government, its budget and the budget process, tax relief, business development and education reform. “Our suggestion is, when it comes to education, have two competitive funds that reward performance,” said Cuomo. “One is a school performance fund which would have a $250 million competition fund for districts that increase performance in the classroom. For example, improving grades of historically underperforming children. If there is a school district that does stellar work, let them compete, let them be rewarded and let them be emulated. “We would have a second competition for administration efficiency. A $250 million competition for districts that can find administrative savings through efficiencies, shared services, etc. Run those two competitions and actually incentivize performance and change the behavior through the funding mechanism.” As an example of how such a transformation can actually happen, Cuomo then introduced Rosenbloom, who stood up to receive a standing ovation. Surprised by the recognition “For those of you who are skeptical about performance and the ability to turn around a school, let me introduce Brian Rosenbloom,” said Cuomo. “Brian is now the principal of Chelsea Technical Career High School in Manhattan. Brian has been there for two years and he’s already made a difference. In that time, student attendance has gone from 73 percent to 85 percent and listen to this, the pass rate on the regents went from 31 percent to 89 percent. That performance is what we want to incentivize, that performance is what we want to model and that performance is what we want to applaud. Congratulations principal, thank you for being with us today.” Rosenbloom recalled his surprise at being invited to attend the speech as he returned to his Monroe home Wednesday afternoon. “I received a call from one of the governor’s people, saying that the governor would like to talk about me in his speech. I was quite taken back,” said Rosenbloom, who did not meet Cuomo on Wednesday. “It was truly an honor. I never thought that the work I do would get recognized at that level. Politics aside, I thought the speech was very moving.” Rosenbloom was a special education teacher and a school psychologist before being appointed principal of a junior high in the Bronx the city planned to phase out. He then started South Bronx Prep and went on to lead a network of schools for the Department of Education. But he wanted to get back into a school and accepted the job at Chelsea, described by many as “chaotic,” with most students coming from low-income families, and who are Hispanic and black. Rosenbloom is known for his “war board,” a giant dry erase board where he keeps track of his juniors’ and seniors’ progress. On that board, he marks how many Regents exams and credits students have next to their names. And, the results of Rosenbloom’s leadership now show more than 80 percent of freshmen getting enough credits to move ahead, with most of them also taking and passing their Regents exams. Based on that progress, the city’s Department of Education named Chelsea one of 11 low-performing high schools worthy of federal school improvement grants, instead of targeting it for a phase-out. A teachable moment Chelsea’s annual grant amount is $952,000. And with almost $1 million extra each year, Rosenbloom is proposing to spend it on items like paying staff so the school day can be extended, hiring a master teacher and introducing college enrichment activities. “It was a great feeling,” said Rosenbloom, describing his emotions at hearing his name called out by the governor. “I got a little nervous when he mentioned my name and I had to stand up….and I’m normally am not.” But ever the educator, Rosenbloom knew this was a learning opportunity for his students, back in their classrooms, watching Cuomo’s speech. “The teachable moment already began,” said Rosenbloom. “I had teachers texting me, telling me everyone was watching it and there was uproar in the building when students heard my name. The economics, the history, the government classes had Cuomo’s speech up on their smart boards. The kids were listening to him talk about the state. They’re beginning to understand what politics is like by watching it. They’re talking about what he’s saying and putting it into reality. It opens their eyes and their horizons a bit. That’s what it’s all about, the kids. That’s a wonderful teachable moment for me.” M-W senior Shang Wang of Highland Mills represents all Orange County high school students during speech ALBANY - Only a small group of hand-picked people were invited to sit on the dais during Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address on Wednesday, and Shang Wang of Highland Mills was one of them. Wang, a senior at Monroe-Woodbury High School, had the distinction of not only representing the Monroe-Woodbury student body, but all high school students in Orange County during Cuomo’s speech. Before the Christmas break from school, and as Cuomo’s transition team began finalizing inauguration and state of the state address plans, a contact from his office got in touch with David Bernsley, the high school’s principal. According to Bernsley, Cuomo’s representative said he wanted to have one high school student from each of New York’s 62 counties represent his or her county at the speech, and the decision had been already made that the student from Orange County would come from Monroe-Woodbury. All Bernsley had to do was make his selection and let organizers know who it would be. “It was an easy decision,” said Bernsley. “Shang is the best of what this school has to offer.” Curriculum vitae Wang is president of the Monroe-Woodbury Student Council, president of the Latin Honor Society and vice president of the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society. He’s also a member of the varsity soccer team and plays saxophone for the school’s Wind Ensemble. While he’s still weighing a career path in law or biology, he’s already a published author in The Journal of Immunotoxicology. After spending two years working in a Sterling Forest research laboratory, he “helped fill in the last pieces of the puzzle” about how the effects of dust from the World Trade Center disaster cause serious health problems. And, he is hopeful about receiving acceptance letters from Harvard, Yale and Columbia universities. “It was an awesome experience,” said Wang, during his drive home on Wednesday afternoon with his mother. “It was an honor. For me, it was a once in a lifetime event to be invited and to sit on the stage with the governor. It was eye-opening and inspiring as well.” While Wang didn’t meet Cuomo, the governor did make sure to recognize all the students during his comments. “And a special thank you to the young people behind me, these are high school students who represent New York’s 62 counties, they are the future, and the state that we are talking about preparing today is the state we will leave them,” said Cuomo. Cuomo was blunt in his comments about the state’s fiscal challenges and how the recession has affected its residents and business climate. “The State of the State begins with an honest analysis of the crisis that we face,” said Cuomo. “In government, as in life, you can never solve a problem if you refuse to acknowledge it. We need literally a transformation plan for a new New York and we have four principles that will guide our new government. Number one, we want a government that pays for performance. Number two, we want a government that actually gets results in real time. Number three, we want a government that puts the people first and not the special interests first. And number four, we want a government that is an icon for integrity where New Yorkers can be proud of their government once again.” Understanding the speech Wang gave Cuomo’s speech high marks. “Governor Cuomo, you can tell he’s a smart guy,” he said. “You can tell he recognizes the problems. He’s not delusional about them. He realizes the magnitude of the problems. He provided a lot of detail on what he was going to try to do to solve the problems. He said he wants New York to go back to its old days of glory, before the recession and the economic funk, to have it lead the nation again. That inspired me. He obviously has high goals. He knows what he wants to do and he wants to lead the state to do it.” Wang also felt the atmosphere at the event was supportive. “There were lots of applauding, lots of cheering,” he said. “I felt like the atmosphere was inspiring. When I picture government, I picture arguing and debating. It was different to see everyone cheering and clapping. There was bipartisanship.” Upon his arrival that morning, Wang was pleasantly surprised to learn he and the other students would be on stage with Cuomo and only a few other dignitaries. “I wasn’t expecting that,” said Wang, who also attended a lunch reception for all the students. “We sat to the right of him. His back was facing us, until he mentioned us and turned and applauded us, and the audience applauded us. They told us we couldn’t use our cameras or cell phones on stage. I saw the lieutenant governor, the leader of the Assembly and Senate and Mayor Bloomburg.” Wang expects at some point he’ll be able to write about his experience for a high school or college assignment. “I just finished my AP Government class,” he said. “If the right topic came up, I’d love to be able to write about it. Being in that class definitely helped me understand that speech.” - Nancy Kriz