Vol. 12, No. 20 Oct. 21 - Nov. 3, 1999


New Clinton Principal Looks to Build on School's Successes


Geraldine Ambrosio knows she has big shoes to fill. Her predecessor as principalxclinton.jpg (18956 bytes) of DeWitt Clinton High School, Norman Wechsler, took a school once on the verge of being shut down and led it over six years to become one of the most successful large high schools in the city.

But that doesn't seem to faze the 49-year-old Bronx native who was hand-picked by Wechsler, now the superintendent of Bronx high schools, to lead the storied institution that has graduated the likes of James Baldwin, Richard Avedon, and Robert Klein.

"He's a hard act to follow," Ambrosio said of Wechsler. But, she added, Wechsler's expertise is still available to her and her colleagues at the borough's 22 other public high schools. "Even though he's not in the school anymore, he's still moving us forward."

Besides, Ambrosio, who attended Aquinas High School and Lehman College, brings impressive credentials and experience of her own to the job she calls "the greatest opportunity of my life."

After teaching at Walton and Lehman high schools from 1972 to 1991, Ambrosio moved up and over to Columbus High School, where she became an assistant principal supervising math teachers. Filling out her resume a little more, in 1996 she became the assistant principal for administration/organization at Columbus.

Ambrosio's priority is getting Clinton's 4,200 students prepared for more stringent Regents exam requirements that will be phased in over the next couple of years and she says she wants "to give kids all that we can give them."

"Decisions that you're making about your future are based on decisions people made for you when you were in the ninth grade," Ambrosio says. "I don't want [students] to get told then, 'You can't do this because you didn't have [a particular subject].'" As an example, she calls it "almost criminal" that until recently students could graduate without taking a math Regents.

Her concern for her students is fueled by her own three children, ages 7, 11, and 16, Ambrosio says. "When I look at these [Clinton] kids, I see my own kids," she says, adding that the question that always runs through her mind is, "Is this what I'd want for my son or my daughter?"

Wechsler says he has "great confidence" in Ambrosio's abilities. "It was tremendously important to me to be certain that my successor would be able to move the school to the next level," he says, "and, in particular, I wanted someone who was very knowledgeable in the area of instruction, curriculum, and professional development."

And though she has barely begun her work, Ambrosio has already made history. Breaking a century of tradition, she is the first woman to lead DeWitt Clinton High School.

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