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Westwood Principal Earns Huge Award For Turning School Around

Michael Fiorello is principal of Berkeley Avenue Elementary School in Westwood.
Michael Fiorello is principal of Berkeley Avenue Elementary School in Westwood. Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education

WESTWOOD, N.J. – A Westwood principal is one of just eight from throughout the country being honored by the U.S. Department of Education for outstanding leadership.

Michael Fiorello, principal of Berkeley Avenue Elementary School, will be awarded with the 2017 Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership at the National Blue Ribbon Schools awards ceremony on Nov. 6 in Washington, D.C.

“It’s a privilege to honor this year’s Bell awardees and to recognize them for their achievement,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a statement. “Through their work, these principals show that when effective leadership is coupled with high expectations, we can expect great results for all of our nation’s students.”

In 2009, Fiorello become principal of the school – which was considered a “demographic outlier in that it was the most ethnically, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse elementary school in an affluent and high-achieving district,” according to the U.S. Department of Education announcement.

The school was often considered a “challenge,” the announcement states, but  Fiorello "recognized the school’s diversity as a benefit."

He implemented a daily “Breakfast Club” before school for students and “Homework Club” twice a week after school to reinforce skills and concepts from regular classroom lessons.

He also established multicultural nights, monthly English language learner parent meetings, multicultural read-alouds, and conducted outreach activities to increase parent engagement, such as Latino Literacy and Technology classes for parents.

With the goal of helping all parents feel welcomed and supported by the school, he also increased the number of bilingual instructional staff and hired a bilingual school secretary to ensure non-English speaking families feel part of the school community.

In September, Berkeley Avenue Elementary School was named a National Blue Ribbon School.

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