At the end of the 2020-21 school year, Baldwin High School Advanced Placement Photography students finished their “Hello Neighbor” art project with the help of Brookside Elementary School second-graders. Inspired by photojournalist and artist Julie Keefe’s “Hello Neighbor” project, the AP photography students adapted their own work to “capture Brookside second-graders' hopes and dreams.”
Over the summer, the photography students’ project, which aimed “to encourage the teaching philosophy of ‘students as producers,’ as well as to spread kindness and inclusivity,” gained statewide attention.
The New York State School Boards Association recognized the project’s significance and awarded the Baldwin School District with the Champion of Change Award, stating, “This award celebrates programs that optimize resources to address issues of equity, demonstrate strong student academic performance, and introduce unique learning environments that are cutting-edge and future-oriented.”
In a letter to the district, NYSSA Executive Director Robert Schneider wrote, “It has come to our attention that there is a creative program in your school district that deserves recognition — the Hello Neighbor Project — and we would like to pay tribute to those who make it possible. We understand there are many incredibly meritorious programs and projects throughout the state, and NYSSBA is celebrating yours!”
The Champion of Change banner was presented to Board of Education President Susan Cools, who accepted it on behalf of the school district during the September board meeting.
In response to receiving this award, Superintendent Dr. Shari Camhi said, “I would like to thank the high school and Brookside students, as well as our administrator who oversaw this effort, Nomi Rosen, for helping to make this possible. I look forward to seeing the project grow year after year with our other elementary schools included. If there was ever a community that could make this world a kinder place, it’s Baldwin.”
The Lenox and Plaza elementary schools have also been recognized as a National PTA Schools of Excellence. This is the second year in a row that Lenox and Plaza have received the recognition.
To achieve the distinction, “both schools made significant progress to welcome and empower families to support student success and school improvements during the 2019-20 school year.” The school administrators and PTAs made a yearlong commitment “in identifying and implementing an action plan for school improvement based on PTA's National Standards for Family-School Partnerships.”
In response, Lenox School Principal Valerie Paul said, “The strong partnership between our families and the communitmake Lenox such a magical place. I would like to thank every single person who made this possible.”
Plaza Elementary Principal Mark Gray offered praise for the PTA as well, noting, “We are very proud of our Plaza PTA for helping us receive this distinction. Our families are the heart of this community. Congratulations to all involved!”
Camhi commented, “More than ever, it is essential that we have a solid partnership between our schools, families and community where we can collaborate and communicate effectively for the benefit of our children’s future. We are very proud of the hard work and dedication that resulted in this distinction.”
Finally, the Baldwin district’s assistant superintendent, Anthony Mignella, was named a “Rising District Leader” by K-12 DIVE, along with nine other assistant superintendents in the nation. Mignella is a former principal and has 23 years of experience as an educator.
Working with Camhi, Mignella has helped to raise the Baldwin High graduation rate to 97 percent since 2016, when he became assistant superintendent. He is also credited with helping Baldwin High rank among the U.S. News & World Report’s top high schools for the last two years.
On the elementary and middle school levels, he has worked to improve the math and science curricula by “introducing an interdisciplinary STEAM program,” and launching algebra for all for eighth-graders. Mignella also started “Better World Day,” a yearlong program that explores “interdisciplinary civics research expedition to understand a local/regional/world problem and enhance their critical thinking, problem-solving and teamwork skills.”
Mignella also heads the district’s instructional technology program, for which he works to “improve internal operations and was critical to ensuring teachers and students could fully participate in remote learning.” On top of this, he oversees professional development initiatives in the district, including the New Teachers Cohort Program, an administrative retreat and monthly professional learning sessions.