So Much More than Pie

When a new neighbor moves in, a good neighbor might bring the newcomer a welcome gift– a pie or casserole, perhaps.

Luis Torres, Principal at PS 55 in the Bronx, offered his new neighbor so much more than pie.

When Principal Torres learned that Bronx Success Academy 2 Charter School would be moving into the same building for the 2013-14 school year, he did what came naturally to him – he reached out to the school’s principal, Vanessa Bangser, to suggest they meet over coffee. It proved to be a the start of productive relationship.

Mr. Torres had been working with the Montefiore Medical Center’s School Health Program and Healthfirst Program for years in order to bring a health clinic to his school and community. He offered the health clinic’s services to Principal Bangser’s charter school students.

In return, Principal Bangser offered professional development to Principal Torres’ teachers. Bronx Success Academy 2 started its school year in mid-August, so PS 55 teachers were able to observe their classrooms before the district school year began.

Mr. Torres is no stranger to collaboration – he’s a Daily News’ Hometown Hero and a member of NYC Collaborates’ District-Charter Collaboration Council. When talk of co-location first came to his attention, he was anxious. But he soon learned that sharing space with a charter school has its perks; namely, facilities matching funds to help get the health clinic off the ground, as well as having new smart boards and a new computer lab for his school.

“While other schools are closing their doors to charters, I recognized the potential for collaboration and shared learning. We know that Success Academy’s doors are always open to us and the same holds true for our school. I’m looking forward to a year full of sharing best practices and resources to the benefit of all of our students,” he said.

This will be Mr. Torres’ ninth year as Principal; he is credited for turning PS 55 into an “oasis for students” in the community, as one community member put it. In 2012, PS 55 was one of nine schools in New York to earn a Bronze in the National Recognition Awards from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation for exceeding healthy eating and physical activity programs.