Bedford Academy: Excellence on Bedford Avenue

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The staff of Bedford Academy High School reveals that its successful formula-which earned the school the honor of being only one of two schools in the City to receive an A marking-consists of a commitment to each student’s academic success and personal enrichment.
For Principal George Leonard, the passion for helping each child to succeed also stems from the lack of nurturing that he received in school.  “I attribute [the way the school is run] to the way that I was miseducated in school,” he said.  “I resented that the other kids knew more than I did and that their hands were always up.”  He was also displeased with the lack of concern that his teachers in Harlem exhibited.  “They didn’t realize that encouragement was important,” he said.  “I made sure that I didn’t make the same mistakes.”
Thus far, he certainly has not made the same mistakes.  In its five years of existence, Bedford Academy touts a Regents passing rate of approximately 95 percent.  Additionally, the 96 graduates of the 2005 class received a combined total of 202 college acceptance letters.  In part, this high success rate is due to the high standards that the students are required to meet.  Leonard said that 65 was an acceptable grade when he was in school, but he makes it clear that more is expected of Bedford Academy students.  “We want to see 80 to 100 for classes, report cards, and the Regents,” he said.  “Failure is not an option.”
Although Leonard is proud of the school’s accomplishments, he made sure to note that he is not solely responsible for them.  “I couldn’t have accomplished it by myself,” he said.  He gives the credit to his Bedford Academy staff, who also shares his vision of academic success.  Yet, Assistant Principal Niaka Gaston acknowledges that productivity in school goes beyond classroom lessons.  “Schools tend to forget the human factor,” Gaston said.  “You can’t treat them [students] like robots.  You have to know their uniqueness in order to meet their needs.”
Bedford Academy taps into the students’ uniqueness through the family groups, which are overseen by the faculty and administrative staff.  The faculty and staff also pinpoint and work with the students’ individualities by teaching them study skills.  Leonard emphasizes rewriting lecture notes and Science Chairperson Bev Thompson tells the students that the information in textbooks is someone else’s interpretation.  He advises the students to “make it personal to you” and “find someone of your like mind.”
However, the Bedford Academy staff does not limit its good works to its student body of 343.  Each Saturday, the staff tutors non-Bedford Academy students in addition to its own students.
In terms of furthering Bedford Academy’s success, Thompson would like to service a larger student population and have a larger school budget.  Leonard would like the school to encompass grades K through 12, as well as offer additional courses (African-American History, Black and Hispanic History, College Now, etc.).  Gaston wants to do “nothing short of revolutionizing education.”  With its track record, Bedford Academy is doing just that.