Dr. Andy grew up a poor boy in a Brooklyn, New York neighborhood where the importance of education, artistic expression, and a personal commitment to being passionate about what you do were instilled in him by his parents.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Andy’s father, Herman Rose, was a highly accomplished professional artist who was acclaimed by critics as being in the highest rank of American painters in the realist tradition, and whose works have been featured in some of the most prestigious galleries and museums throughout the U.S. View Obituary
Herman passed on to Andy and his brother George a love of learning. As parents themselves, Andy and Vivian taught their children early that a good education would have a lasting impact on the course of their lives and their potential for personal fulfillment. Dr. Andy and Vivian also stressed the values of sharing and personal responsibility.
Before Andy recognized his calling to be an educator, he aspired to be a professional musician. Upon earning an undergraduate degree in music, he worked as a freelance classical clarinetist in New York and pursued his dream to gain admission to Julliard. The first two attempts were unsuccessful but the third audition resulted in his winning a letter of admission. However, by that time, Andy had determined that a career as a musician was likely rocky at best and would not provide the support he needed to raise a family.
At the time of Andy’s transformation from budding musician to educator, there was a teacher shortage in New York City. The state was offering a one-time crash program at New York University which, if successfully completed, awarded eight credits and a temporary teaching license with the stipulation of completing a master’s degree within five years. Andy seized the opportunity and met the challenge.
Extending respect to engage and inspire
One characteristic of Dr. Andy’s leadership style that has proven consistently effective throughout his professional life is an open, accepting manner that eases the natural divides of ethnic, gender, religious, and class distinctions and engenders a tone of bridge building.
A good portion of Andy’s students during the early years of teaching in New York City were involved in gangs or came from violent homes; many were Hispanic and African-American. Even later when he became a principal at Norwood, some 22% of his students in kindergarten through eighth grade were Asian-American. Thirty to forty years ago, such distinctions were more likely a source for problems than mere indicators of diversification more common in 2010.
Whether in the inner-city or the affluent suburb of Norwood, Dr. Andy tirelessly confronted the dilemma of how to respond to incidences of prejudice and meld the various perspectives, cultures, and beliefs of students into an environment conducive to human development and learning. It has been a long journey from his first week as principal, when he witnessed a student throw pennies at a classmate because he was Jewish.
By employing a soft-spoken approach framed within a classroom setting of strict yet reasonable rules, and an overlay of high expectations, Andy successfully gained students’ respect which he leveraged to engage and inspire them.
However, his early teaching experience on Manhattan’s lower East Side proved to be more of a process in self-discovery. With little possibility for professional advancement, he soon realized he had ambitions beyond the classroom; one that involved helping to change the system. The future “Dr. Andy” was in the making.
Norwood: A place of his own
Dr. Andy’s career in Norwood has been marked by passionate support from teachers, parents, and the public-at-large, who have appreciated his integrity-based approach to leadership and consensus building. Such support was evident early on.
In 1985, while Andy was holding the administrator’s post on a temporary basis, the Norwood Board of Education was conducting a nationwide search for the permanent appointment. During a public hearing to solicit feedback on the final candidates, one of whom was Andy, over 200 parents, teachers, and students showed up to testify on his behalf wearing roses in their lapels! One speaker after another stood up to question why the Board was “wasting” valuable time and resources considering outside candidates when the best man for the job was right in front of them. The rest is history: 25 years of it.
Andy’s tenure in Norwood paralleled dramatic growth in the borough, a combination of gentrification via luxury developments and the obligations from referenda that mandated construction of multiple unit lower-cost housing.
Despite the pressures from regional population and student body growth, combined with budget constraints, Andy successfully fought to maintain the district’s small class size and teacher-student ratio. He theorized that smaller classes ensure individualized attention, which in turn stimulates participation from various learning-level groups, promotes the emergence of natural leaders, and develops self-esteem as students learn from each other.
Dr. Andy’s many accomplishments at the helm in Norwood include improving student achievement and test scores, expanding the curricula, empowering teachers with more decision-making input, refining special needs programs - particularly for autistic children and their families, technology utilization, expanding parental involvement in school programs, improving engagement with the board of education, the DOE, and the Federal government as well as enhancing community relations with local leaders, volunteer organizations, churches, and civic groups.
As he departed Norwood in 2009, it became clear that Andy left an indelible mark on thousands of children in a place he was able to make his own. Equally apparent is the mark those children have left on Dr. Andy. He was privileged to impact the lives of several generations, including children of former students. His thoughtful approach to school-family-community partnerships has in its own way contributed to the intellectual, economic, and spiritual health of the nation.