Cuomo Singles Out Chelsea Principal in Speech

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, during his first State of the State speech, singled out a New York City principal whose school WNYC has been profiling in our "Big Fix" series with GothamSchools.

The governor praised Principal Brian Rosenbloom, of Chelsea Career and Technical Education High School, on Wednesday for raising attendance and test scores.

"That performance is what we want to incentivize, that performance is what we want to model," Cuomo said, as he described two new competitive grant programs modeled after the U.S. government's Race to the Top program.

Rosenbloom, who attended the speech in Albany, stood up when the governor mentioned Chelsea. Following the speech, the principal said he was nervous but he felt good when he saw a text message from his government studies teacher.

"He said the class went ballistic and they saw you and they heard the school's name," Rosenbloom said, laughing.

Gov. Cuomo was correct in stating that Chelsea's attendance had improved since Rosenbloom's arrival in 2008, from 73 percent to about 85 percent. But it seems like he reached a little far when he said the percentage of students passing the Regents since then had gone from 31 percent to 89 percent. Rosenbloom said that's strictly the percentage of sophomores who passed the Global Studies exam in 2008 and 2010.

The governor said he wants to "incentivize" improvements like those at Chelsea by putting aside $250 million to reward school districts that raise student achievement. Cuomo proposed using another $250 million for districts that figure out ways of becoming more efficient. He didn't provide any details, however, about the source of this $500 million in proposed new funding other than saying he wants to trim government.

New York's entire Race to the Top grant is worth $700 million and that's already been committed to various programs such as creating new data systems for tracking student achievement, and improving teacher training.

Rosenbloom didn't have much time to absorb the governor's proposals. He said he was trying to follow the speech and stand up at the right moment when the cameras panned to him. But he said he was impressed with what he heard.

"I believe that we need to find ways of not just doling out dollars but making sure that we're getting, as he said, something back for the money," he said.

Rosenbloom's own school is the recipient of a new federal school improvement grant worth almost $1 million annually for the next three years. That money has enabled him to lengthen the school day, keep teachers he might have otherwise let go for budget reasons, and bring in staff developers. Chelsea Career and Technical Education High School is among 11 schools receiving these federal "transformation" grants.

As for driving up to Albany for a moment in the spotlight, Rosenbloom thought it would be good for his school. "I was very humbled by the experience, and I must say that I think a lot of the credit should also go to my staff and the students who worked hard to see changes in their school," he said.

Having his students watch their principal get a shout-out from the governor, he added, "It can have a great, positive impact on them, too."