The last time Secretary Duncan visited New Dorp High School on Staten Island, NY, the school was in crisis mode. It was December 2012, and the East Coast was still recovering from the powerful Hurricane Sandy. During his initial tour, Duncan met with students and teachers whose lives had been turned upside down by the devastating storm.
While many schools in the area shuttered their doors, principal Deidre D’Angelis kept New Dorp running, both as a school and as a center for the community. The school was the only functioning facility in a part of the city that bore the brunt of the storm – thousands of homes were destroyed and the area was without power for weeks. During Duncan’s first visit, he was blown away by the stories of survival and resiliency – many of the students and staff he met saw their homes wash away – and he vowed to come back to visit during happier times.
Duncan’s visit last week was certainly more celebratory. He sat in on a concert performed by students with disabilities, and watched seniors play basketball during a physical education class. And just like before, he was incredibly moved by what he had witnessed.
“This is just an amazing, amazing school here. Not every kid is lucky enough to go to a school with this much heart and as much sense of community and family and the kind of high expectations,” he said. “To see just the pain and the fear that the kids and staff were dealing with, the amount of support they were giving to each other, it’s extraordinary.”
Duncan also used the opportunity to congratulate the school and its staff for the academic turnaround it has experienced under the leadership of principal D’Angelis. He highlighted their success as an example of the amazing results that can occur when a community comes together under extreme circumstances, works hard and does the right thing every day.
“From horrible tragedy, great things can happen. You are doing great things here; what you’ve done is amazing,” he said.
Patrick Kerr is a member of the Communications Development division in the Office of Communications and Outreach