EBC High School for Public Service

Administrators and teachers of EBC High School for Public Service-Bushwick view themselves as citizen leaders responsible for the well-being of their community. EBC emphasizes changing the community not from the outside but from within.

The ten “Beat the Odds” schools were selected after an extensive review of a Parthenon Group study and data from the New York City Department of Education. These schools’ innovative programs and outstanding leadership resulted in a higher than average graduation rate for students who typically either dropped out or did not graduate on time.

Background Study

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EBC High School has strong ties to its community.

Students and staff at the East Brooklyn Congregations (EBC) High School for Public Service-Bushwick view themselves as citizen leaders responsible for the well-being of their community. EBC people and programs emphasize the importance of changing the community not from the outside but from within.

The citizen leadership view supports wide participation in democracy with the notion that common problems require collective actions. Members of the school community, the argument goes, must be involved in the issues that affect their lives. To be intelligently involved solving common problems, citizens must be educated, for educated citizens are likely to offer and support actions that work.

Early on in a student’s career at EBC, the staff lay the groundwork for the propositions that service to society is a form of leadership and that to encourage wide participation is to lead. Teaching and learning with these ideas in mind can be difficult and cumbersome, because they often require moving outside the school walls in order to engage in nontraditional learning exercises. By graduation students realize that substantive learning accompanies the application of the knowledge to society’s problems. They also learn first-hand that civics—or the study of the privileges and obligations of citizens—is an active science.

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Single-sex Advisory classes provide EBC students with opportunities to connect and support one another.

Small schools, such as EBC, can innovate with curricula and instruction. Even before they cross the threshold of EBC, first-year students know something of the school’s culture and the expectations for behavior and academic performance.

Incoming first-year students spend time together in a summer enrichment program known as Summer Bridge. In particular, students who may be challenged academically benefit from the summer experience. It helps them understand the school culture and connects them socially and psychologically to people who will influence their futures.

The EBC administrators, teachers, and staff believe students need special guidance through the vulnerable teen years. The Advisory Program provides students with an adult who acts as friend, parent figure, and mentor. The Advisory Program buffers unsettling change in students’ lives with moral support and positive regard.

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The creative use of resources supports staffing needs at EBC.

New York City Public School leaders must communicate and implement their visions of educational success and be accountable for the results. Mr. Capellan, the EBC principal, must marshal scarce resources in support of his programs, such as the Advisory and Summer Bridge programs. These labor-intensive initiatives play havoc with the instructional calendar because they are so difficult to staff.

To staff the Advisory Program, Mr. Capellan must decide when and where to assign a teacher. These decisions inevitably involve tradeoffs between instructional coverage and student support. Capellan raises funds in support of the Advisory Program and asks teachers to do more, even if it means they will not receive additional pay. He combines or shifts program times, rooms and staff to make the operation work. Capellan even uses the support staff—people who may be short on formal education but long on real-world experience—to work as advisors. In the end it is about providing students with a local network of support.

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EBC teachers collaborate to meet student needs.

The population of EBC is changing with the arrival of students who have special needs and with those who demonstrate limited English proficiency. Mr. Capellan and his staff are facing these challenges head on with new programs offered by teachers in collaborative teams.

Cutting edge school leaders are leading organizational efforts by adapting and planning for changes in society. They do so knowing that what works today may be hopelessly out of date or off target tomorrow. For instance, while students’ academic needs often tend to dominate discussions, social needs continually threaten to swamp all others.

EBC staff work with social workers to bridge the cultural gap of understanding that can separate students from their parents and guardians and can be a further divide between the school and family. By offering classes to parents EBC provides genuine opportunities for substantive learning, but the school also encourages greater personal involvement in the life of the community.