Anna Phillips is a staff reporter at GothamSchools.
Hunter College High School, an elite New York City public school for gifted students, announced on Tuesday that it had named Tony Fisher, the former math department chairman who had been serving as acting principal, as its new principal.
Dr. Fisher, 47, has been on the faculty for six years and previously worked for more than a decade as a teacher and administrator in private schools. In 2010, after the resignation of the previous school leader, Eileen Coppola, Dr. Fisher was named acting principal while a search committee began a national hunt for a permanent replacement.
Dr. Fisher, who had also served as Hunter's assistant principal, was one of four finalists for the job. The others were from New York, North Carolina and Texas. In an e-mail to parents, Jennifer J. Raab, who as Hunter College’s president oversees the school, said Dr. Fisher's most significant contribution had been in "creating a middle school ethos" for seventh and eighth graders by arranging study halls, advisory periods and seminars just for them.
Dr. Fisher's appointment follows several years of administrative turnover at Hunter, where students and faculty members watched three principals leave over the course of five years. The school's notoriously difficult entrance exam and complaints over a lack of diversity have also provoked controversy.
In an interview, Dr. Fisher described his job as a "godsend" and said his message to the faculty would be, "There is stable leadership."
"You can stick with what you're doing but take some risks and try some new things, and the administration will support you," he said.
His own plans for Hunter involve bringing more technology into the school, creating a better support system for academically struggling students -- and identifying their struggles earlier -- and freeing his faculty members to spend more time with students on the activities and disciplines they are passionate about. He also spoke of plans to increase Hunter's outreach to families who may not know of the school's existence, beginning as early as elementary school.
Sending mailings directly to all city fifth graders who scored in the top 10 percent on both the state English and math tests, which Hunter began doing several years ago, has broadened its applicant pool, Dr. Fisher said. "But we are looking for ways to continue to improve our numbers of under-represented students."
Under Dr. Fisher, Hunter is also experimenting with three homework-free days this school year, a response to a survey it conducted of students, as well as concern from parents that their children are stressed. But that is not a sign of further retreat. Eliminating homework is not being considered, said Dr. Fisher, who has a bachelor in mathematics from Yale University and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, also in mathematics.
After nearly two years of serving as Hunter's de facto principal, Dr. Fisher said he was pleased when he was offered the position last week. He went out and made new business cards, he said, ones without the word "acting."
From: Jennifer J. Raab
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2012 2:45 PM
Subject: [HCHS] High School Principal Announcement
This message sent to - All Parents
I am pleased to announce that after a competitive national search, Dr. Tony Fisher has been named Principal of Hunter College High School. In his six years at HCHS, Dr. Fisher has been a highly respected department chair, assistant principal, and acting principal. He came to us having earned three degrees in Mathematics: his B.A. from Yale University, and his M.S. and Ph.D. from University of Chicago. He also received his NYS Building and District Certification through the Administration and Supervision Program at Hunter College.
Dr. Fisher began at Hunter as Mathematics Department Chair, before being asked to take on the newly created role of grade 7 through 9 Assistant Principal. His accomplishments as a senior administrator have been many, but perhaps most significant has been his instrumental role in creating a middle school ethos in the building. In doing so, he reinstated the 7th grade seminar, led the creation and implementation of 8th grade advisory, and instituted 7th and 8th grade study halls. As Acting Principal, he has established a structure which allows for more
faculty time spent on co-curricular opportunities, such as a science research coordinator position created with donor support, mathematics research talks organized in conjunction with Hunter College, and a journalism practicum to be launched next year-all allowing students to follow their related passions with more faculty guidance. Curriculum alignment also has been a priority area for Dr. Fisher, who led the articulation of the core 7-12 curriculum and the development of new interdisciplinary units taught in the 7th and 8th grades.
Before joining HCHS, Dr. Fisher spent 15 years as a private school teacher and administrator, including time at Collegiate School and Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School. He has earned a reputation across New York City as a superior educator and leader, and as principal he will draw upon his vast networks to champion the challenges and triumphs of public gifted education.
We can look forward to Dr. Fisher's leadership expanding to include the development of further engaging interdisciplinary opportunities for faculty and students, as well as the integration of innovative technologies into the curriculum. Dr. Fisher is also committed to ensuring that HCHS is a healthy place for students, in every sense of the term. At the same time, he will seek new ways for students to pursue their curricular and co-curricular goals, including maximizing opportunities for rigorous research and study at Hunter College and other institutions across the city. As trusted partners in the
education of your extraordinary children, Dr. Fisher deeply values the voices within our parent community, and will work to enhance communication and outreach to you as principal. I am confident that our students and faculty will be expertly guided under his leadership.
We would like to thank the chair of the HCHS principal search committee, Acting HCCS Director and HCES Principal Randy Collins, along with the committee members who worked diligently to identify and interview exceptional candidates from across the country. These committee members were: English Chair Lois Refkin, Social Studies Teacher Jana Lucash, English Teacher John Loonam, Science Teacher Brian Park, Foreign Language Teacher Chris Unruh, Hunter College Provost Office Senior Advisor Nicole Vartanian, and parents Ellie Chung Glus, Jennifer Gouray, and Anthony Shorris.
Please join me in congratulating Dr. Fisher. We are privileged to have such a seasoned and talented principal at the helm of the High School.
Thank you for your invaluable role within the HCHS community.
Jennifer J. Raab