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Coaching Teachers and Inspiring Students Earns a $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Assistant Principal Princess Francois

New York educator boosts STEM and spurs social cohesion at Brooklyn's Math, Engineering and Science Academy

November 20, 2019

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — Teaching high schoolers to love math and science is just one part of solving the complex equation of learning for Princess Francois at MESA charter high school in Brooklyn, NY. As assistant principal at the Math, Engineering and Science Academy (MESA), Francois also teaches the teachers, offering personalized coaching for educators that prioritizes high-leverage learning principles. As a result, student chemistry and math scores are way up on statewide testing during Francois' tenure. The daughter of Haitian immigrants at a school with many students from similar backgrounds, Francois is a role model and inspiration for students as well as teachers interested in propelling STEM education to the next level. 

Yet it was Francois who experienced an exponential increase in her fortunes at a surprise school assembly this morning where she was presented with a Milken Educator Award by Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley and New York State Department of Education Office of Higher Education P-20 Policy Coordinator and Strategic Planning Senior Advisor Allison Armour-Garb. An elated Francois was named a 2019-20 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. She is the only Milken Educator Award winner from New York this year, and is among up to 40 honorees for 2019-20. 

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching" have been opening minds and shaping futures for over 30 years. Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement. The initiative not only aims to reward great teachers, but to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America's next generation of leaders. Milken Educators believe, "The future belongs to the educated."

Francois is bringing that opportunity closer to her diverse group of students and staff through STEM education and also by promoting social cohesion through celebrating diversity. By putting the "assist" in assistant principal, Francois opens the door to STEM careers for MESA charter high school students and improves the effectiveness of the teachers who assist learners in reaching their goals and reaping a better future. 

"Princess Francois understands the value of a STEM education," said Foley. "By working to help students advance themselves and their communities, Francois opens the door to a brighter future. Her uplifting vision and strategic work is the kind of inspirational leadership we seek, and we're proud to welcome her as a Milken Educator." 

"Assistant Principal Francois has a powerful positive influence on her students, colleagues, and the school community at MESA," said Armour-Garb. "Francois' leadership reinforces a college-going culture, to make educational equity a reality for MESA's diverse students."

About Milken Educator Princess Francois

Inspiring and engaging, Assistant Principal Princess Francois positively impacts students, colleagues and the school community at Math, Engineering and Science Academy (MESA), a charter high school in Brooklyn, New York. She oversees 70 staff and 500 students, holding direct responsibility for the professional growth of 22 teachers and two department leaders. Francois provides personalized teacher coaching, developing and following through on action plans that support educators' growth and effectiveness. Her high-leverage, targeted feedback leads to immediate implementation and tangible results. Francois initiated a schoolwide vertical alignment process, helped reorganize professional development efforts and analyzes data to support at-risk students and struggling teachers. When she taught Algebra Remediation at MESA, 11 of her 17 students passed the New York State Regents Exam at the end of the year; in Earth Science, Regents pass rates rose 14%. Under her supervision, Regents pass rates have risen 20% for Algebra II and 17% for Chemistry. 

Francois takes the lead on cultural initiatives at MESA. Her focus on school-wide diversity and equity prompted the creation of the school's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, which works to ensure that all groups feel celebrated and accepted. Francois helped revamp Black History Month at MESA, turning a one-day assembly into a month-long celebration with food, music, educational workshops and group conversations about race. She insists on a college-bound culture at MESA, arranging visits to college campuses and encouraging students to reach beyond their comfort zones to apply for summer programs both within the U.S. and beyond. Accentuating her emphasis on higher education, when Francois received her master's in educational leadership, she invited students to attend her graduation. 

The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Francois grew up in the same community that MESA serves, with a large West Indian population and a mix of other cultures. Students see her as living proof of what they can accomplish regardless of their socioeconomic background. Former students talk about her lasting impact, crediting her with their increased confidence, love of science and decisions to pursue careers in STEM fields. Teachers see Francois as not just a coach but a mentor. She works with student teachers from Long Island University, as well as early and mid-level teachers at MESA. Francois has shared her personal story at conferences held by Teach For America and the New York City Department of Education to inspire other educators on their own path to leadership. 

Francois earned a bachelor's degree in history from Columbia University in 2011, a master's degree in adolescent special education from Hunter College in 2013 and a master's degree in educational leadership from the Bank Street Graduate School of Education in 2015. 

More information about Francois, plus links to photos and a video from today's assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at https://www.milkeneducatorawards.org/educators/view/Princess-Francois

Milken Educators are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. In addition to the $25,000 prize and public recognition, the honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals, and specialists dedicated to strengthening education. 

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2019-20 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in Indianapolis from March 26-28, 2020 where they will network with their new colleagues and exchange ideas with state and federal leaders on the future of education. In addition, the Milken Educator Awards' "Why Not Us" program will pair each 2019-20 recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor to explore and prepare for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy. 

More than $140 million in funding, including $70 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients' careers. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.

The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is completely unique: Educators cannot apply for this recognition and do not even know they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then are reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation.

The cash award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways; for instance, on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even on the adoption of children.

To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Everyone is encouraged to watch the tour at www.facebook.com/milkeneducatorawards, www.twitter.com/milken, www.youtube.com/milkenaward and www.instagram.com/milkenfamilyfdn.

For more information, visit www.MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.

About the Milken Educator Awards

The very first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. The Awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish.

Lynne Russo 
(818) 903-6079 cell; 
lynneerusso@gmail.com


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