Dillon Prime, Principal/LEAP & NSI Graduate/Mentoring Excellence Initative Mentee
- What is your current role and professional history?
I am designer and founding principal (IA) of Bronx Park Middle School. Prior to this post I was a teacher, coach, mentor, club facilitator, department chair, school leadership team member, grade team leader, and event planner at MS 331. I also completed my Leaders in Education Apprenticeship (LEAP) residency at MS 331 with my mentor principal, the indomitable Serapha Cruz.
- Why do you believe your leadership role is a critical lever to student achievement?
I’m certain that great teaching is the critical lever to student achievement. The purpose of a school leader is to develop teachers so that great teaching happens in every classroom for every student. Through collaboration, reflection, innovation, determination, and empathy, a school leader can build an instructional vision that accomplishes this goal.
- Why did you choose the Leaders in Education Apprenticeship Program (LEAP), New School Institute (NSI), and Mentoring Excellence Initiative? How have they impacted you as a leader?
Ultimately I chose all three programs because I felt like the combination of the training, professional development, and support they offered was what was necessary to support me as a school leader. I found their impacts to be far-reaching and distinct.
LEAP pushed me to see myself as the embodiment of my values, as both a leader and an educator. I developed my skills as a reflective and collaborative practitioner. It was profound personal and professional development.
The New School Institute (NSI) pushed me to think about the foundational organization upon which a school grows and operates. The team from the Office of New Schools guided me through the process of taking my vision and developing the living structure of the school. NSI was the detail-oriented coaching that brought the vision of my school to life.
The Mentoring Excellence program gave me the time and direct support I needed to learn to be a principal from my mentor, Serapha Cruz. She challenged, questioned, and tirelessly supported me during my apprenticeship. To be honest, it’s also a huge confidence boost to know I can call on her for help for years to come.
- Tell us about one or two personal or professional experiences that have shaped you as a leader.
In college, I got the opportunity to build a men’s rugby team and captain the team to the state championship title. It was my first taste of how leadership can bring a group of people to pull in the same direction to achieve a lofty goal.
As a middle school teacher in the Bronx, I came to see teaching and leadership equally. Both teachers and leaders develop goals, craft plans to accomplish the goals, and bring the skills and strengths of many people together to go the distance. I think being a teacher also pushes you to develop a lot of personal grit--a quality no leader can be without.
- What is unique about leading in New York City?
I haven’t been a school leader elsewhere, but from what I can tell, the beauty about leadership in New York City is its autonomy. I’ll gladly take on the necessary accountability if I can have the autonomy to be innovative in how I design and implement my vision as a leader. The DOE offers this opportunity, and that is why it’s unique.