George E. Leonard: Changing the Game in Education
George Leonard has rose to national and international acclaim for his innovative and ground-breaking teaching methods for the last thirty years in New York City schools, which has ignited unparalleled success. His educational career began as a Biology teacher at Boys and Girls High School in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn under the leadership of Principal Frank Mickens for ten years. Despite being a new educator, his students enjoyed great success on the New York State Regents examination in Biology giving him the highest passing percentages in the school of 5,000 students.
Continuing to exceed all expectations, Mr. Leonard, began to prepare students for science competitions including the Westinghouse Science Talent Search and broader competitions including the NAACP ACT-SO competition. While still at Boys and Girls High School, George decided to join the Science Skills Center -an academic after-school program for Elementary aged students in School District 13 in Brooklyn. For four years, he sought to repeatedly prove that the high school science curricula could be taught to young students enabling them to pass the associated Regents examinations.
In 1985, with 15 students between the ages of 8 and 12 taking and passing the Biology Regents and thereby exempting them from the course when they reached high school. Amazingly the youngest student to pass the Biology Regents was in the 3rd grade, which was Guinness Book worthy. Mr. Leonard’s groundbreaking accomplishment and the great academic strides achieved at the Science Skills Center was chronicled in the PBS special documentary – “Who Will Teach Science.” Later that same year, the New York State Legislature recognized his work by presenting George with a Proclamation of Academic Excellence.
After being appointed principal of Bedford Academy High School in 2003, Mr. Leonard spearheaded the most exciting learning institution that this city has ever seen. A school designed to accelerate a population who have achieved little academic success, its students have earned a place in the top 2% of the city. In 2007, Bedford Academy High School solidified its title as one of the best schools in New York City with the announcement of the 2007 –2008 School Progress Reports. With a score 103.6, Bedford Academy was named the #1 school in Brooklyn and the #2 school in New York City. It has been rated the best in Regents passing, attendance, graduation rates, college entrance, and performance.
Labeled an “Apple Ivy” school by the New York Post, Bedford Academy was regarded as the #1 HS in NY State for low income students and 9-9 Marathon attracted students from neighboring schools as well as from Long Island school districts. Bedford Academy has received numerous Proclamations of Academic Excellence and Achievement from New York City Council, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Senator Ed Towns, and the New York State Legislature. It has also been featured in various papers including Our Times Press, the Daily Challenge, the New York Post, the Daily News, the New York Times and the Washington Post. The school has even received international recognition through media coverage in Haiti and China.
His ability to strive for excellence and inspire students of all ages to perform beyond their best is never ending. Before he retired from the Board of Education in 2008, Bedford Academy High School was rated as the number one high school in New York State for low income students. In 2008 Friends of Bedford, Inc., an educational consultancy, with Mr. Leonard as its Chief Operating Officer, was contracted by Michelle Rhee, the former Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools, which led to advance her reform efforts through turnaround efforts at two failing schools -Paul Laurence Dunbar and Calvin Coolidge Senior High Schools.
During its tenure in the nation’s capital, Friends of Bedford accomplished the near impossible by achieving the highest gains in “state” examinations for both schools within one year, helping to raise the District’s national educational ranking. Friends of Bedford, Inc. has received recognition by the Washington Post for its’ work in achievement and continues to raise the bar for others to follow as it continues to battle the never-ending war against failing schools in low income neighborhoods in this country.
Presently, Leonard is serving as the principal at Collegiate Academy for Mathematics and Personal Awareness (CAMPA) in East New York, Brooklyn. Along with assistant principal Niaka Gaston and a dedicated team of teachers — their goal is to prepare students in a holistic manner equipping them with the skills necessary to thrive in high school, college and beyond. They also employ a “no excuses” approach to ensure student success. CAMPA knows that traditionally unsuccessful and underserved students can learn at high levels and experience academic and personal success.