Two decades after Grecian Harrison began her teaching career, she has come full circle — to the helm of the school where she started.
Harrison, principal of Boys and Girls High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, is a Brooklyn native who never forgot her roots.
A former social studies teacher, Harrison now works with teachers, parents and the community to increase enrollment and restore the shine to the school long known as the pride and joy of Bed-Stuy.
For her innovative community outreach and attentive care for her student body, Harrison is nominated for a Hometown Heroes in Education award.
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Harrison started teaching at Boys and Girls in 1994, her first job in the city schools. Back then, iconic principal Frank Mickens patrolled the hallways with a bullhorn.
Mickens ran a tight ship, earning the nickname “The Chancellor of Fulton Street.” Graduation rates rose under his watch and enrollment ballooned to more than 4,000 kids.
A year later, Harrison transferred out of Boys and Girls, moving to George Wingate High School in East Flatbush to fill a vacancy there. But Boys and Girls stayed with her.
The legendary school, however, fell on hard times after Mickens’ departure in 2004.
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By the time Harrison got back, in 2016, the school’s graduation rate had dropped and enrollment dried up. The school was a candidate for closure or state takeover, and Harrison’s predecessor principal had quit abruptly.
But Harrison has hit the ground running. With a new curriculum that encourages writing across disciplines, test scores and grad rates are up.
It hasn’t been easy.
Just 386 students were enrolled at Boys and Girls for the school year that ended in June, down from 940 in the 2013-14 school year.
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But Harrison sees the smaller enrollment as a desirable advantage in an overcrowded system.
“We’ve gone from the days of 4,000, to 395 students where they are all known by adults in the building,” Harrison said.
Now enrollment is starting to bounce back and Harrison is leading a number of new programs for students and families.
Harrison has worked with teachers to train them to help students with gaps in their education and other challenges they may face outside of class.
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She reaches out to the community by offering fun parent/teacher fitness and yoga nights. Middle school students are welcome to play in basketball tournaments in the gym. The whole neighborhood is invited to a photography fair hosted in the building.
The school’s partnership with Lutheran Medical Center means students get immunizations, physicals and dental visits, at no cost to parents.
“I want to make sure, that when you think about Boys and Girls High School, to take you back to those days,” Harrison said. “Just that: the pride and joy of Bed-Stuy.”
To nominate an educator, include a brief description of why he or she deserves an award. Visit this page for a list of complete rules.
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Please provide relevant names, dates, locations and contact information for the person making the nomination.
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