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All Students Can Succeed With Social and Emotional Support, Principal Says

By Gwynne Hogan | December 25, 2016 2:53pm

 Jorge Sandoval, the Principal of Academy of Urban Planning in Bushwick, talks about how he's striving to provide social and emotional supports so that every teen can succeed.
Jorge Sandoval, the Principal of Academy of Urban Planning in Bushwick, talks about how he's striving to provide social and emotional supports so that every teen can succeed.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan
BUSHWICK — A new principal who grew up poor to an immigrant family from Ecuador — and was the first generation in his family to go to college — is now working to bring the same opportunities to his students at a local high school that's long struggled with flagging enrollment and poor attendance.
Jorge Sandoval, 40, took over as principal of the Academy of Urban Planning at 400 Irving Ave. on the Bushwick Educational Campus this fall, though he's worked for nearly a decade there, first as a substitute teacher, then a U.S. history teacher, then assistant principal, and now this fall as principal.
Two years ago, the school was designated a renewal school by the city, one of 86 low-performing schools to get extra funding and support. And their efforts have quickly paid off, statistics show.
Attendance was up from 70 percent two years ago to 86 percent, and the four-year graduation rate last year 70 percent last year, up from 56 percent in 2011.
While there's a constant fight to bring the most challenged students up to speed, Sandoval said, the new principal isn't shy about providing the more advanced students with stimulating opportunities, like pathways to internships with local organizations.
And starting this year, thanks to a partnership with Medgar Evers College, students can get college credits in history, English, Spanish, biology and U.S. history.
The school boasts a hydroponics lab that opened this fall and they're in the planning phases of getting a girls soccer team and working on a swim team for the recently refurbished Olympic-sized swimming pool they share with other schools on campus.
Sandoval sat down with DNAinfo and talked about some of the challenges and exciting new elements headed to the Academy of Urban Planning.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What have you done to get such a dramatic bump in attendance at the school?
The method is traditional work. There's making phone calls, meeting with students, giving them mentors, assigning them mentors, not just teachers but staff members. My secretaries serve as success mentors. We have our own attendance team, we do home visits: guidance counselors do home visits, attendance teachers go on home visits, teachers' assistants, no one is above anyone on the attendance team. Everyone has their own responsibilities to get those kids in. We call home twice a day in the morning and the afternoon. Any kid that's not there by the end of the day, whoever's not here gets a phone call. It's time consuming, but it works.

Has the changing neighborhood impacted the climate inside the school in any way?
One of the things that plagued us the most about recruitment is the old stereotypes about Bushwick. We know it's being gentrified, yes we get it, but those students aren't here right now. They're not old enough, and if their kids were going to our schools, then that's different, but right now we don't see that. So what do we do? How do we change people's mindset about Bushwick? We compete. So our next step is to compete — compete with other schools. So we're adding sports like swimming and girls soccer.
Has anything changed for about the school's teaching philosophy post-election? 
We still have work to do, we can't just sit here and be sad about how the hell did it happen? We all know how it happened. We discuss it as students bring it up, especially social studies. They try to synthesize it with the past, what happened when the Chinese immigrants were treated in such ways, we talk about quotas and the civil rights movement. I try to push the humanities classes to really face some of the issues that occur today.
What's the aspect of your school are you most proud of?
Our biggest asset is our social-emotional support. We have mental health clinicians brought in through our community school program. We have a Saturday academy, and every Saturday, kids come in for tutoring in math, science, ELA, whatever they need to get caught up. Not only get caught up, but to advance.
In the past people would say, "It's the kids — look at the kids we're getting." I was around as a teacher and I heard teachers complain, "Look at the kids we're getting — what do you expect from us?"
Now, that's not even in the vocabulary. We've created a culture where every student is a learner and we take any kid. I don't say no to them. I know we have the services, our biggest push to have that social and emotional support.

Hydroponics Lab is Fully Functional
by: Ms. Laino and Mr. Salwen

January 1, 2016




— Yelena Palleiro, teacher and department head at the

Academy of Urban Planning, was recently inducted as a 2015-2016 Fellow

of The Academy for Teachers.

The Academy brings New York’s finest educators together with our culture’s  leading minds and creative talents for inspiring Master Classes held in New York’s most beautiful and interesting venues. Teachers spend a day learning from an expert and from other master educators. Being invited to a Master Class is a well-deserved honor. Teachers are nominated by fellow teachers and administrators. Those nominations are then evaluated by other educators.

Out of many nominees, Ms. Palleiro was one of just 18 teachers chosen to participate in a Master Class on “Spoken Word Poetry” with the poet Taylor Mali. The class, which allowed time for the teachers to draft their own poems, was held in the Library at the New-York Historical Society.“Teaching is hard and noble work that needs to be supported and celebrated,” says Sam Swope, the founder of The Academy for Teachers. “In
order to keep inspiring students, teachers themselves need to be inspired.  They must continue learning about the subjects they teach and we must keep their intellectual curiosity alive.”Ms. Palleiro said about the day, “Spending the day with other teachers of similar mindset and Taylor Mali was a wonderful experience. Particularly the portion of the class when we had the opportunity to compose a piece and then read it aloud. That was extremely valuable because of the feedback we received. It highlighted concepts important to spoken word poetry and helped me understand what to look for when my students read their work aloud.”


November 8, 2015
BROOKLYN, NY, November 8, 2015: On Sunday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams unveiled “Growing Brooklyn’s Future,” an initiative with over $2 million in initial investment from his Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) to create hydroponic classrooms to a dozen schools across Brooklyn. He made this announcement inside a classroom at the Academy of Urban Planning, a high school located at the Bushwick Campus which will be transformed into a green learning space through a partnership with New York Sun Works, a non-profit organization that builds innovative science labs in urban schools. Borough President Adams highlighted the potential of urban farming to revolutionize the borough’s relationship with food and the environment, as well as to create thousands of jobs in the emerging agritech industry.
“Brooklyn is getting back to its roots as we move into a greener future, growing healthy food and talented students in the same classroom,” said Borough President Adams. “I am particularly excited that we are launching ‘Growing Brooklyn’s Future’ in communities like Brownsville, Bushwick, and East New York, areas where our children have historically been left behind. In the spirit of One Brooklyn, we are planting seeds of opportunity in every neighborhood, and innovation and progress will flower across our borough from stems of success that are grounded in STEM education.”
Schools receiving $167,000 each from Borough President Adams to build out hydroponic classrooms include: PS 21 Crispus Attucks in Bedford-Stuyvesant; Brooklyn Democracy Academy in Brownsville; Academy for Environmental Leadership, Academy of Urban Planning, IS 383 Philippa Schuyler, and PS 377 Alejandina B. De Gautier in Bushwick; High School for Medical Professions, IS 211 John Wilson, and PS 279 Herman Schreiber in Canarsie; Brooklyn Lab School and Multicultural High School in Cypress Hills; and IS 292 Margaret S. Douglas in East New York.
“Public-private partnerships like these help us revitalize science and sustainability programming in New York City public schools,” said Sidsel Robards, director of development and events for New York Sun Works. “We are honored to be working with Brooklyn Borough Hall on this mission.”
“Chair Julie Dent and I were ecstatic to learn of the FY16 capital budget allocation that Borough President Adams allocated to four schools in Community District 4,” said Nadine Whitted, district manager of Community Board 4. “Through this generous allocation, our youngsters will have an opportunity to learn first-hand about greenhouse technology and other science concepts which will propel them into the 21st century, thus equipping them with the required tools to become more competitive in the worlds of technology, science, and sustainability. I thank him for his promise to educate and equip our students for a brighter future.”
“We have had a successful hydroponics program running for eight years and are elated to expand with the generosity of Borough President Adams,” said Andrew Brown, principal of the Brooklyn Democracy Academy. “Our expansion will include aquaponics, which is a game changer for our students and community. This truly has far reaching potential for our students and their families.”
Borough President Adams presented funding recipients with honorary checks with the seal of Brooklyn Borough Hall, as well as an oversized check, made out to “One Brooklyn,” for “Growing Brooklyn’s Future.”