Mr. Barbetta reflects on one year at the helm of THHS

HTML tutorial

Mr. Anthony Barbetta at his desk.  Photo </a><figcaption id=Mr. Anthony Barbetta at his desk. Photo by Michelle Schweiger.

Though still relatively new to Townsend Harris, the sight of Principal Anthony Barbetta walking the halls, greeting students by the main stairwell in the morning, and sporting either THHS or Red Sox apparel is a common one to behold.

As the school year winds down, Mr. Barbetta spoke with The Classic about his first two semesters as principal.

When he accepted the role of principal in the summer of 2012, Mr. Barbetta was already aware of Townsend Harris’s esteemed reputation. Having previously worked at Thomas Edison High School, he was familiar with the demands of serving a city high school, and only had high expectations for his future students. He assures us, however, that these expectations were fulfilled and even exceeded throughout this first year. Many of the school’s impressive traditions, such as the yearly celebration of our school’s roots known as Founders’ Day, stood out to him as the highlights of the year.

“I’d have to say one of my best experiences here so far was the Founders’ Day skit,” he recalled, “but do I really have a Mediterranean glow?”

The biggest change for him, he contends, has been the atmosphere of the halls.

Mr. Barbetta said, “I’m always impressed by how well-behaved the students are here,” he said. “Often I’ll walk around and hear students say, ‘I can’t believe I got that math question wrong! I’m so angry at myself!’ It’s a welcome change to hear discussions about math tests and correct answers rather than the cursing and foul language I’ve heard in some of my previous locations.”

That isn’t to say, though, that he’s left things just the way they were upon his arrival.

In terms of changes, Mr. Barbetta focused on the issue of technology in the school.

The new PCs being installed in each classroom over the past few weeks  are part of a plan he is initiating in order to make technology easier to use in the classroom. These computers, which are new and faster than the previous laptops issued to each room, are linked to the SmartBoards and can be used for all the same things as the laptops, with the intent to simply make things more convenient.

In addition to revamping the technology in classrooms, he’s eliminated this year’s Acuity predictor tests.

“I try to put myself in [the students’] position,” Mr. Barbetta says. “I don’t believe in testing students to death, and I think much more learning happens when the kids don’t have to worry so much about an onslaught of exams.”

What’s in store for the future? Mr. Barbetta’s plans to build a better relationship with Queens College that will benefit students at every stage of high school. He wants to expand QC’s involvement in key aspects of the Townsend Harris experience, such as clubs, academic programs, and physical education.

His advice to students is, “Take advantage of your time in high school– it truly is what you make of it. When I hear students say they don’t enjoy their time in school, I always ask them whether they’re involved in activities, teams, sports, and clubs. Very often they say they aren’t. You have wonderful opportunities here– take full advantage of them.”