In the Principal's Office | A Look at School Leaders’ Unique Work Spaces

This week, WNYC invited principals to submit photos of their office and include mementos that held specific significance. 

Whenever I visit a school, I start by meeting the principal. I’m usually directed to an office where an administrative assistant sits behind a countertop, preserving an air of opaque bureaucracy. But when I’m taken behind that dividing line and into the principal’s actual office, I’m always struck by what I find.

Here are a few examples:

Bennett Lieberman, principal of Central Park East High School

“I am a lucky man,” said Lieberman. “My office has great natural light and looks out onto the building’s courtyard garden. My office is full of books to share with students and staff. I love lending books, and talking about books with teachers and students. I also love decorating my office with student work from our Photoshop class taught by Mr. Difiglia, who also took this picture. He is a great art instructor and photographer. I rarely wear a tie to work, but today we had a ribbon cutting ceremony for our new school library.”

You can see some of the titles from the new library books in this photo.



Taeko Onishi, principal of Lyons Community School in Brooklyn

Unlike some city schools where principals have large offices and private bathrooms, Taeko Onishi and her co-director, Jody Madell, share a small office overflowing with paperwork. She says it’s hard to describe how busy her office is with a single photo.

"Both Jody and I, who co-direct the school, have desks in the staff room. We use this space to meet with staff and students, as does everyone else.” She describes the space as very “lived-in.”

The Lyons School, for grades 6-12, shares an older building in Williamsburg with two other schools. Onishi says the other schools have more traditional principals’ offices but she prefers her arrangement.


Stephen M. Duch, Principal of Hillcrest High School in Queens

In the background of Duch's office there are many mementos from Hillcrest's accomplishments thought the years. This year is the school's 40th anniversary, and Hillcrest is proud of all their student staff and alumni.


Katherine Moloney, principal of P.S. 100 in Brighton Beach

Maloney is pictured with Kindergarten Counselor, Cubby, reviewing the kindergarten register for next year. She says she hates desks so her office “has a big conference table so everyone can sit around it to talk.” She also keeps two frogs in the small aquarium named Jake and Elwood.


Rashid F. Davis, principal of Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Brooklyn's Paul Robeson campus.

Davis keeps an homage to his alma mater, Morehouse College, in his office, along with framed diplomas to celebrate his academic achievements and pictures of the faculty and staff. He doesn’t usually wear the T-shirt, too, but he did for this photo.

“It is important for people to walk out of my office feeling as though that I believe in celebrating the completion of formal education beyond high school and the pictures of my staff are constant reminders for me to celebrate and appreciate them,” he said.

He also has an autographed poster from the musical version of “The Color Purple” on his wall “because the arts are important to who I am.”


Nyree Dixon, principal of PS 12 in Brownsville, Brooklyn

In this age of accountability, when a school is graded based on the progress its students make on state exams, many public school principals hang charts on their walls filled with data tracking student achievement.

Dixon says her office “contains data charts of all types, the American Flag,” and lots of books. But she also keeps “a simple black-and-white photo of my mom reading with me at age six.  I like to keep my family memories of literacy within the walls of my school family."


Joseph Nobile, principal of PS 304 in the Bronx

“Stained glass was my hobby, so I have a few items hung,” said the long-time principal of the Throgs Neck elementary school.

In addition to the lamp over a table, Nobile has created a stained glass red-and-blue apple and other decorative pieces including one with the name of his school.

He also keeps bulletin boards with pictures of former students, various awards and Yankees and Giants memorabilia. Above his desk there’s a giant slide ruler.

“None of my students or teachers under 40 know what it is,” he quipped.