The Board of Education just handed out $8.3 million in performance bonuses to teachers and administrators — and a Downtown principal took home the biggest check.
Pam Taranto was awarded a sweet $25,000 on Nov. 14 for improving the performance of Brooklyn International HS, a magnet school at the corner of Flatbush Avenue Extension and Concord Street by the Manhattan Bridge.
Her school earned the highest score in the city on the latest round of progress reports — 106.5 out of 100 — largely because 80 percent of its students graduate on time, far better than the city-wide rate of 50 percent.
The graduation rate is more impressive because Brooklyn International only admits recent immigrants learning English as a second language. In addition, 95 percent of its graduates go on to college.
But don’t ask the principal to brag about her leadership.
“The staff deserves the credit,” said Taranto, who went to Brooklyn Tech in Fort Greene as a kid. “Something this amazing doesn’t happen because of one person.”
She may be modest, but the principal has been instrumental in this Brooklyn success story. Taranto was a math teacher on the staff when the school was created in 1993, and advanced through the ranks as the student body grew from 30 to 400.
She became principal two years ago.
From the beginning, the school has partnered with the Peace Corps Fellows program to recruit returned volunteers, whose multicultural experience helps teachers develop collaborative curriculums based on the philosophy that being bilingual is “an asset, not a liability.”
Student response — and not only the statistical response that the Tweed Courthouse bureaucrats monitor — has been amazing.
“I like the school because the teachers work together, and we work in groups,” a Yemeni freshman explained confidently, even as he stumbled a bit in his second language. “If you need help, you can come in after school.”
Getting the students out of the classroom is “crucial to language development,” said literacy coach Pat Doherty, so Brooklyn International arranges an internship for each student during their junior year. Two are currently translating for Brooklyn courts.
“A lot of our activities aren’t publicly funded, so we partner with outside organizations. I’m always looking for businesses to host internships,” said Taranto, adding that volunteers and donors are needed as well.
As for the bonus, Taranto said she had no plans to splurge or even go on vacation — the busy administrator spends her summers doing professional development.
“It’s not something I ever thought about,” she said. “Maybe there’ll be time for me to take the teachers out to dinner.”