NH Register Profiles Coop Principal Frank Constanzo

BIG PLANS: New Haven's Co-op High principal aims to improve student performance, eliminate achievement gap
 
 Published: Sunday, October 23, 2011
 
Courtesy of the New Haven Register
 
By Abbe Smith, Register Staff
 
NEW HAVEN — Frank Costanzo has a big task as principal of Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School: To promote academic achievement and stay true to the magnet school’s mission of being a center for the arts.
 
 But Costanzo also has a strategy: Create the perfect blend.
 

“One of our next steps as a school community is to more fully integrate the arts program with the academic program,” he said.
 

At 31, Costanzo is one of the youngest principals in the district. He is also the product of a special program within the district to identify and cultivate young potential leaders.
 

“We’ve created a very strong pipeline to ensure that we have a steady supply of highly trained administrators ready to step in when they are needed,” said schools spokesman Christopher Hoffman.
 

The program identifies exemplary teachers who have leadership potential and puts them through a training period. When teachers have the appropriate certification and are ready to assume a leadership role, they are mentored by a successful principal.
 

Costanzo has deep roots in the New Haven school system. As a child, he attended Woodward Avenue School and then Nathan Hale. His family moved to Hamden, where Costanzo graduated from Hamden High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Quinnipiac University, and went on to get his master’s in education at Brown University. His first teaching job was in 2004 at New Haven Academy, where he taught history. Eventually he decided to get certified as an administrator and took a year off to attend an intensive school leaders program at Harvard University, where he earned another master’s degree.
 

Finally, Costanzo landed at Co-op with a job as assistant principal under the tutelage of longtime Principal Dolores Garcia-Blocker, who last year was tapped this year for a Central Office job, as supervisor of guidance, counseling and the gifted program. Costanzo has big shoes to fill at Co-op, but he embraces the challenge of being a building leader.
 

“A lot of leadership is teaching. It’s cultivating the values and beliefs of adults, not just students,” he said.
 

By adults, he means teachers. By inspiring and nurturing teachers, Costanzo hopes to enrich the learning experience of the more than 550 students at Co-op. His role also includes helping to oversee the administration of College Summit, a program that aims to create a college-going culture at the school and help prepare students for higher education.
 

“It is our intention to create a roadmap for students in grades 9 through 12 so they are thinking of themselves as college bound,” he said.
 

Costanzo said he is encouraged by progress the school is making with student achievement on the Connecticut Academic Performance Test and in closing the achievement gap. According to internal assessments, the school is on track to close the gap between white and black students this year in the area of reading for information on the CAPT.
 

“A goal this year is eliminate that gap, and I think we can really do it,” he said.
 

Costanzo said he has always been most interested in working in city school districts where one of the biggest challenges is to provide excellent learning opportunities for all students, regardless of race or economic status.

Right now, he is going for his doctorate in urban education from Columbia University. He remains committed to public schools.
 

 

“I honestly think there is no greater service to my country,” he said.