Innovative Care, Patient Outcomes, Professional Successes, are the pulse of the Nursing Doctorate program

The College of Staten Island School of Health Sciences offers the Doctorate of Nursing Practice to prepare practitioners of nursing to provide innovative care at the highest level by translating credible research findings into clinical practice in diverse healthcare settings such as hospitals, homes, and throughout the community.

The program is open to all Bachelor of Science Nursing graduates with a minimum of one year clinical experience. The CSI DNP also accepts advanced-standing students who already have a Master’s degree in Nursing and are currently certified or licensed as Clinical Nurse Specialists or Nurse Practitioners. Registration closes December 1, 2015 for Fall 2016 classes.

Because of changes in the healthcare structure due to the Affordable Care Act, advanced practice nurses have an expanded role in regards to the health promotion and health maintenance of patients in both primary care and acute care settings. The ACA has opened up access to health care to those who did not have insurance which has subsequently opened up various opportunities in both independent and collaborative practices for Nurse Practitioners and Clinical Nurse Specialists who are able to meet the health care needs of this expanded population.

The College of Staten Island is keeping its students one step ahead of the curve by providing the DNP since that degree will very soon be the gateway to these certificate programs in New York City.

The restructuring of healthcare organizations and insurance companies has also created many new roles for advanced practice nurses. Many positions within large healthcare organization look upon clinical doctorates “very favorably,” notes Chairperson of Nursing Dr. Mary O’Donnell. 

“This is a very large bump in status for Advanced Practice Nursing,” stated Dr. O’Donnell.  “Advanced Practice Nurses are more in demand now than they have ever been.”

Elaborating on the importance of the DNP degree, Dr. June M. Como, Graduate and Clinical Doctorate in Nursing Practice Program Coordinator at CSI, said, “Having a Clinical Doctorate provides you with more evidence-based practice tools and a deeper clinical understanding—the main focus of which is to translate research evidence into practice to enhance patient outcomes and to be able to use it in a more timely fashion.”

“Our DNP program is designed to meet healthcare workforce needs and to provide opportunities for the preparation of advanced-practice nurses at the doctoral level to provide the highest level of nursing practice in the clinical setting,” said Dr. Maureen Becker, Interim Founding Dean of the School of Health Sciences. “The curriculum emphasizes the use of research findings in advanced clinical care, strategies for health education of the public, advocacy for vulnerable and culturally diverse populations, analysis of outcomes of care, mitigating environmental and genetic influences on health, advanced-treatment modalities, healthcare informatics use, and identification of evidence gaps with formulation of systems-level interventions.”

“CSI DNP graduates will receive better pay in their fields, more respect from the healthcare industry as a whole, and, also very importantly, CSI is the most economical game in town,” added Dr. Como, who also co-wrote the proposal for the program.

A recipient of a CSI DNP degree will perform one of two roles in the field of advanced-practice nursing: that of a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) or a Primary Care Practitioner (NP).

Students in the two degree programs take many of the same courses but focus their course assignments, competency development, and clinical hours on the role of choice—as clinical nurse specialists who work with the adult and gerontological populations within the spheres of direct care, nursing personnel, and organizations/networks, or as primary care nurse practitioners who also work with the adult and gerontological populations. Both advanced-practice nurse roles focus on promoting health, preventing disease, and managing the care of individuals, their families, and communities.

The CSI DNP is currently offering scholarships. For additional details and to apply online visit


Geraldo Rivera Creates Fund for Social Work and Disability Studies

Geraldo Rivera keynotes the College of Staten Island’s Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work departmental exercise, May 2014.

Geraldo Rivera returned to the Willowbrook neighborhood of Staten Island, NY to be the speaker at the College of Staten Island’s (CSI)  Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work commencement ceremony in May 2014.

The graduates from this newly accredited program were so impressive, their chosen profession so vital, that Rivera was inspired to establish The Geraldo Rivera Fund for Social Work and Disability Studies at the College.

The Fund will provide support for public conferences, symposia, lectures, and new publications that will inform the public and continue the legacy of empowering people with disabilities, and influencing public policy.

“This generous investment in our students, faculty, and College will benefit the academic discourse and rigor on campus, and will allow us to take a leadership position regionally, nationally, and internationally as we promote research, advocacy, and dialogues around this important issue in our society,” commented College President Dr. William J. Fritz.

“This important Fund will empower the College to develop in-depth public programming that explores the fields of social work and disability studies by presenting an interdisciplinary array of global scholars, practitioners, policymakers, and thought leaders,” added Dr. Nan Sussman, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Rivera has a long history with the location of the current CSI campus, which was previously the site of the Willowbrook State School. He earned a Peabody Award in 1972 for his exposé on the inhumane conditions at Willowbrook and sparked a revolution in the way that people with disabilities receive care and services. When CSI moved to the Willowbrook site in 1993, the identity of the College became forever intertwined with the Willowbrook State School.

“Aside from being enormously gratifying, to be involved with CSI is to come full circle,” said Rivera. “Encouraging the next generation of young social workers to fight for equal rights for people with disabilities is the ultimate follow-up, ensuring that the horrors of Willowbrook never return.”

The Willowbrook Archive is housed in the Special Collections of the Library, and the College hosts an annual Willowbrook Lecture Series on the anniversary of the Willowbrook Consent Decree, which eventually was responsible for closing the Willowbrook State School.

“CSI has developed a strong orientation to the interests of people with disabilities in academic programs and more generally in campus life,” Dr. Sussman notes. “Additionally, CSI recently launched a Master’s of Social Work program with a focus on meeting the needs of people with disabilities, including those on the autism spectrum, and hired social work faculty who conduct research on disabilities and publish and present their work nationally and internationally.”

An example of ongoing research includes Professors Dr. David Goode and Dr. Darryl Hill, who recently co-authored A History and Sociology of the Willowbrook State School with Jean Reiss and Dr. William Bronston, a nurse and doctor at Willowbrook whose meticulous notes served as a key resource for the publication.

This focus is critical as CSI, a senior college of The City University of New York (CUNY), has the highest percentage of students with disabilities among the University’s senior colleges, and operates a variety of services designed to assist these students and ensure their success.

“You’re going to be doing noble work,” Rivera said, praising the recent graduates from CSI’s Social Work program. “You will make a difference in the lives of the people you are working with and for. The people that need you, their lives will be materially enhanced, in a way that you will be a walking angel. For every person that you help, that you guide, that you assist, that you make their lives richer and better, your life will be similarly enhanced by it, your soul will be fed… you will be the next generation of the people who will make this world a better place.”

“We are very grateful for the establishment of The Geraldo Rivera Fund for Social Work and Disability Studies at the CSI,” Dr. Fritz noted. “Mr. Rivera’s vision so eloquently aligns with the College’s Mission, and we are proud that together we memorialize a tragic past as we strive to make a significant contribution to our understanding and empowerment of people with disabilities.”

DPT Student Takes Women’s Health Issues into Her Own Hands


Ann Mackey, a doctoral student in Physical Therapy at CSI.

Ann Mackey, a doctoral student in the College of Staten Island’s Department of Physical Therapy program, was recently elected to serve on the Board of Directors as one of two Northeast Regional Representatives of the Section on Women’s Health (SoWH) Student Special Interest Group.

Mackey,  a 2012 graduate from the Verrazano School Honors Program at CSI, recently attended the Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association in her first official capacity as a board member, believes that not enough people are aware that women’s health issues are being addressed within the physical therapy field.

“A lot of women have serious issues and don’t know how to treat them,” notes Mackey, and as a physical therapist and SoWH board member, she wants to change that misconception.

“We really want to start strengthening our networking power,” she says.  To that end, Mackey is in the process of updating the information for all other schools in the northeast, as well as building awareness for other students who may be interested in women’s health issues.

Mackey begun studying physical therapy “later in life.”

As a former ballet dancer, Mackey dealt with many injuries and she knew that “dancing wasn’t going to last forever.” When she decided to attend CSI she knew that she “wanted to help dancers in the same way I was helped by physical therapists when I danced.”

During the recent National Student Conclave, a once-a-year meeting for DPT students, Mackey saw a booth dedicated to the SoWH and completed an application and a written statement of interest when she returned to New York.

Mackey, who is graduating next spring and plans on taking board exams in July 2015, wants to make an impact as a physical therapist immediately and plans on incorporating her women’s health specialty into her methodology.

“I am going to go out there and start working,” she said of her plans after school and she intends on incorporating yoga and Pilates into physical therapy sessions.

Dr. Jeffery Rothman, a chair of the Department of Physical Therapy at CSI, emphasized what Ann’s board membership means for the CSI DPT program as a whole.

“Ann’s leadership position on the Board of Directors in a national office will provide national exposure of the College of Staten Island, CUNY, and the college’s Department of Physical Therapy,” says Rothman.  “She will be an outstanding contact person for students and practicing clinicians interested in the important area of women’s health.”

“Women’s health is an issue that is very underrepresented,” Mackey adds, “not enough people know to get involved.” Due to her leadership and contributions however, that may very well change.


New Doctorate of Physical Therapy Receives Historic Number of Applicants

Just last year, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo authorized the College of Staten Island to offer a clinical Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree in the fall of 2014, and CSI has seen an impressive increase in the number of applicants applying to the program this year.

CSI has received 220 applications to the program as of the program’s November 1 deadline, as opposed to 140 the previous year when the DPT program was part of The City University of New York Graduate Center’s doctoral program—an increase of nearly 50 percent.

The significance of CSI offering a clinical Doctorate of Physical Therapy on campus has been stated by many members of the College’s faculty and staff who have been instrumental in ushering in this new era for CSI.

Maureen Becker, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy, calls the announcement an “historic event for CSI,” stressing that having a doctoral program offered at CSI is a major milestone for the College, adding “CSI will also be one of the very few universities that will offer programs for students from high school to career.” The College will now offer remedial, associate, baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral degrees to its students, a feat that will allow CSI to “nurture long-lasting relationships with our students that last them their entire college careers.”

Dr. Jeffrey Rothman, Professor and Chair of the Physical Therapy Department and Executive Officer of the Doctorate in Physical Therapy Programs, believes the rise in applicants can be attributed to several factors.

“CSI’s reputation as a state-of-the art, career-oriented university has increased over the past several years,” Dr. Rothman states. He also cites the addition of dormitories on campus, as well as the fact “the physical therapy field itself has grown, especially on Staten Island, which has a fast-growing community that is in need of health care professionals on the Island. Further, the contributions and clinical expertise of the graduates from our program over the years since the program began have played a significant role to promote the reputation of the College and the Physical Therapy Department.”

Currently in the process of interviewing potential DPT students, Dr. Rothman has been impressed with the large crop of applicants he has vetted. CSI’s previous cohorts of CUNY Graduate School DPT students have a high graduation rate, with approximately 90 percent of the students receiving licensure over the past three years and 100 percent of those gaining employment in their chosen field.

“Many of our program graduates have assumed leadership roles in the profession and work setting,” stated Dr. Rothman about the quality of CSI’s graduates. “Our graduates are often sought after when positions become available. The department often hears accolades from former patients and their supervisors of our graduates attesting to the high quality of care they received.”

The Doctorate of Physical Therapy is a clinical program that prepares graduates to become clinician-scientists who can competently apply research to clinical practice, perform all aspects of physical therapy (PT) practice, and perform clinical research. Students who have graduated with their DPT degrees have gone on to work in many of the area’s hospitals and health facilities, senior settings, sports rehabilitation centers, and pediatric facilities, and have even opened their own practices.


CSI Launches Master’s of Social Work

Social Work majors Carolyn Jackman, Carl Jackman, Marcela Insuasty Toro, Dan Sterling and Brody Clemmer and Jenn, take a breather during Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

Staten Island is a burgeoning community of nearly half a million people and is part of one of the most important and opportunity-filled cities in the world. Staten Islanders tend to seek the majority of needed services within the borough and rely heavily on local schools, hospitals, and social service settings in the community. The lack of a graduate-level social work program on Staten Island makes it very difficult for those living and working there to access effective social work there.

Staten Island has a large and diverse population of people with disabilities, and in order to prepare students to meet this growing demand, the College of Staten Island (CSI) will launch a new Master’s of Social Work (MSW) degree program for the fall 2014 semester.

The purpose of the MSW program is to educate students for advanced, urban social work practice in the community, region, and worldwide, with an emphasis on meeting the needs of people with disabilities.

Admission into this program is highly competitive, with only 18 full-time students being accepted for the first year of the two-year, 60-credit program. Applicants who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education can apply as a one-year (30-credit) Advanced Standing student.

Applications are being accepted from December 1, 2013, until February 8, 2014, for the MSW program offered by the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work. Applicants will need a BA or BS degree with at least one course in statistics (which can be taken in the summer upon acceptance into the program), a minimum grade point average of 3.0, three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

The program will concentrate on working with people with disabilities, broadly defined to include developmental, intellectual, physical, sensory, and psychiatric disabilities. The curriculum consists of courses that, among many others, focus on social work values and ethics, diversity, social justice, and at-risk populations, and will include up to four internship courses.

Students who complete the program will be eligible to apply for their New York state license, which allows them to work under a licensed social worker as they prepare for their clinical license. Licensed master social workers (LMSWs) are needed in all environments, and as Dr. Lacey Sloan, Associate Professor of Social Work, insists, “There is a robust market for social workers—every field of practice needs social workers.

“Social work is a profession that strives to create a just and equitable world for the future of humanity. Guided by a code of ethics, social work is committed to ending oppression, embracing diversity, and ensuring that individuals, communities, and organizations function at an optimal level,” commented Dr. Sloan on the importance of social work in the community.

“CSI is located on the former campus of the Willowbrook State School, an institution for people with developmental disabilities that was closed due to inhumane conditions and inadequate management. Given the history of Willowbrook State School, it is part of the mission of the MSW program at the College of Staten Island to develop a rigorous academic program that educates professionals who respond to the needs of former Willowbrook residents and clients, the larger disabilities communities, and others who live on Staten Island and in the region.”

To learn more about the requirements or to apply, contact the Office of Admissions and Recruitment at 718.982. 2019 or at

Gov. Cuomo’s Signature Ushers in a New Era at CSI

NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo and Dr. Maureen Becker at the Governor’s State of the State address at the CSI Center for the Arts earlier this month

The College of Staten Island (CSI) was officially registered as a Doctoral-degree-granting institution in New York State on February 5, when Governor Andrew M. Cuomo approved the amendment to the long-range Master Plan of The City University of New York (CUNY). The completion of the three-year process from proposal-to-signature now allows CSI to join the ranks of Hunter and City colleges as the only CUNY campuses other than The Graduate Center to confer doctoral degrees on its students. 

Since 2006, students who were studying for their Doctoral of Physical Therapy (DPT) at CSI were officially earning their degrees from The Graduate Center, CUNY. As of September 2014, when the first DPT cohort at CSI enrolls, students will study and receive their degrees solely from CSI.  

“This is a momentous occasion for the College of Staten Island, with profound implications for the future,” commented Dr. William J. Fritz, Interim President of CSI. “I am very proud of the academic excellence of CSI and gratified by the confidence placed in the future of the College and the University by Governor Andrew Cuomo.” 

“The College of Staten Island being awarded doctoral-granting status speaks volumes to the academic rigor of our curriculum and the expertise of our faculty,” commented Dr. Fred Naider, Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. 

Upon learning that the New York Board of Regents had approved this status change in the College’s formal registration, Dr. Alex Chigogidze, Dean of Science and Technology and Professor of Mathematics at CSI commented, “I cannot overstate the significance of this achievement. CSI is now a doctoral-granting institution. This means that the College can grant doctoral degrees not only in Physical Therapy, but in other fields as well. We are now the only senior college within CUNY that offers a truly full spectrum of courses and programs, spanning from college-readiness courses to doctoral programs. Philosophically speaking, we are now complete.” The change in registration also changes the College’s ranking category with the Middle States accrediting body.  

Dr. Maureen Becker, Acting Chair of the Physical Therapy Department and Director of Clinical Education, who was present during Governor Cuomo’s signing of the amendment, was beaming during the announcement.  

“We have been working toward this for three years,” she said, expressing pride in the work that CSI has accomplished.  “This is a historic event for CSI.”

CSI will also be one of the very few college or universities nationwide that will offer programs for students “from high school to career,” as Dr. Becker puts it.  The College offers college-readiness programs, and grants associate’s, baccalaureate, master’s, post-master’s certificates, and now doctoral degrees to its students. “We are able to nurture long-lasting relationships with our students that will last them through their entire college careers.” 

As the program has worked since its inception, all coursework and study occurs on the College of Staten Island campus, allowing all students full-time access to the expertise of the faculty. The Fall 2014 cohort of admitted DPT students will continue with the same model; however, their degrees will be issued from the College of Staten Island and not The Graduate Center. 

The Doctoral of Physical Therapy is a clinical program that prepares students to become clinician-scientists who can competently apply research to clinical practice, perform all aspects of physical therapy (PT) practice, and perform clinical research. Students who have graduated with their DPT degrees have gone on to work in many of the area hospitals and health facilities, senior residences, or have even opened their own practices. 

The three-year DPT program includes 34 weeks of clinical internships and is highly competitive—this year’s cohort studying at CSI contains 20 students out of 135 applicants—although that number may now rise. The number of full-time faculty in the Physical Therapy program has already risen to seven with the hiring of new faculty to offset the expected increase in applicants. 

 “CSI’s Physical Therapy and Nursing programs have always been some of the best in the city,” remarked Becker, adding that CSI currently has 240 clinical contracts with nearly 700 hospitals and health facilities for clinical internships. 

Graduates of the program have gone on to research PhDs, and become teachers, hospital directors, and owners of private practices. “Everywhere you may be in Staten Island, if you are in a health care facility, chances are you are receiving treatment from a graduate of the College of Staten Island.” 

The DPT program at CSI will host an open house on April 18 at 2:30pm in the Physical Therapy Building (5N), Room 217 at 2800 Victory Boulevard. Contact the Physical Therapy Department at 718.982.3153 for more information. Faculty members and students will be available to discuss the program and answer questions, as well as provide tours of the facility.  Admission is based upon a cumulative review of GPA, GRE scores, recommendations letters, and interviews. A Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Psychology, or Exercise Science is preferred, with no Master’s degree required.  



The Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling Celebrates Its Second Cohort’s Graduation

Dr. Frances A. Meléndez, Interim Director of the MHC program, poses with two graduates.

The College of Staten Island’s Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling (MHC) program held  its second cohort’s graduation on Thursday, January 24, in the Center for the Arts Recital Hall.

The MHC program was developed by Dr. Judith Kuppersmith in collaboration with the Psychology faculty in order to address cultural and social problems as they emerge and change in our diverse and challenging world. The philosophy of the program is to “prepare students to work with children, adolescents, adults, families, groups, and organizations using highly developed cognitive and affective skills.” In the program, the students are encouraged to undergo their own personal counseling to better promote self-knowledge and personal growth.

In her welcome remarks, Dr. Frances A. Meléndez, Interim Director of the MHC program, discussed the impact that recent events within and around Staten Island have impacted its residents and brought to light the need for more well-trained mental health counselors. “Post-9/11 New Yorkers have high rates of anxiety and depression and the recommendation for a 15-percent increase in mental health providers…now the aftermath of Storm Sandy adds a third indicator further solidifying the importance and the need for mental health services on Staten Island.”

She went on to tell the audience about the lack of mental health services provided to New Yorkers, “MHC is known throughout the U.S. but it is relatively new to New York State. This program was developed by our faculty and the support of the administration to address the needs of Staten Island.”

The keynote speakers for the event were Dr. Aurelia Curtis, Principal of Curtis High School and Gigi Lipman, LCSW, Director of the Amethyst House, a halfway house for women suffering from substance abuse, both of whom worked closely with the MHC students as part of the internship requirement of the program—the graduates spent time working with several partners throughout the Staten Island community including CSI’s own Counseling Center, the YMCA, South Beach Psychiatrist, and the Vet Center to name a few. 

Both speakers exhorted the students to always persevere on behalf of their clients. 

“Hope is the most valuable thing we can give to our clients,” said Lipman.

This focus on self-exploration and the specific mental health needs of the people of Staten Island was evident throughout the graduation ceremony as the faculty and students present all referenced the importance of understanding the value of therapy and how to use it to help others.    

Many of the speakers for the event also frequently used the word “family” when describing the members of the cohort.  The 20 students, along with their friends and families, applauded and cheered heartily as each member of the cohort received his or her degree. 

“The emphasis of the program has always been collaboration, not competition,” said Kerri Quinn, one of the student speakers for the event. She also went on to talk about her reasons for joining the program.

“I have been to counseling, I know that it works and I want to help others the way it helped me,” said Quinn, who is working for the YMCA Counseling Center, plans on becoming certified as a substance abuse counselor, and works with children whose parents are struggling with addiction. 

Victoria Porcell, the other student speaker, who is teaching Research Methods and Psycho-Pathology at CSI, reiterated that sentiment by saying, “I just want to help others, any way I can.”

IS 51 Principal Nick Mele (CSI ’00, ’05) Embraces History, Creates the Future

Arts Education and Civic Engagement Polish a Public School’s Shine

Markham in his Waters Ave. residence. Photo courtesy of the Westerleigh Improvement Society.

Edwin Markham, born Charles Edwin Anson Markham in 1852, moved to what is now known as Westerleigh on the North Shore of Staten Island in 1901. He founded the country’s first poetry society in 1904, and his house became a central gathering point for the era’s literary elite, with well-received readings performed by notable figures from the home’s second-story porch.

“The Markham House was a distinctive residence and gathering place in its heyday, when the area was known as Prohibition Park,” notes the President of the Westerleigh Improvement Society, Michael Morrell (Richmond College ’70, MSEd). “It stands today as a distinctive crown jewel of Westerleigh, representing the incredibly rich literary history and architectural style of the neighborhood.”


The front page of the April 24, 1937 issue of the Staten Island Advance featured a photo of Edwin Markham outside his home on Waters Ave. in Westerleigh three years before his death. Photo courtesy of the Staten Island Advance.

In his day, Edwin Markham’s April 23 birthday was a local school holiday on which students gathered and covered his lawn with flowers. On his 80th birthday, President Herbert Hoover and prominent citizens marked his accomplishments as an artist and literary figure with a notable party at Carnegie Hall.  According to American National Biography, Edwin Markham “managed to fuse art and social commentary in a manner that guaranteed him a place among the most famous artists of the late nineteenth century.”

Although known primarily for his poetry, Markham was a community-minded civic leader.  His book Children in Bondage: A Complete and Careful Presentation of the Anxious Problem of Child Labor – Its Causes, Its Crimes, and Its Cure (1914), was a landmark publication in the crusade against child labor.

With a noble history, it is fitting that Edwin Markham Intermediate School 51 was the first junior high school built on Staten Island. Today it serves the communities of Port Richmond, Graniteville, Westerleigh, and Mariners Harbor.


Nicholas Mele graduated from the College of Staten Island in 2000 with a BA in History and again in 2005 with an MS in Adolescent Education. He became Principal of IS 51 on January 3, 2011.

IS Principal Nick Mele (CSI ’00, ’05) embraces the history of the Markham School and stewards a future where arts education and civic engagement are keystone values.

Before taking over as Principal, many people warned Mele that Markham was a “tough” school and that he had his work cut out for him.  From the moment he walked into the building, he realized that what he heard could not have been further from the truth.

“The children were great and the teachers and staff took such pride in their work and their school. Perhaps most importantly, I was impressed by the teachers’ and staffs’ dedication to our students and the student experience,” Mele reflects.

As he began integrating into the community, Mele learned that many parents who lived in the neighborhood did not consider IS 51 an option. With declining enrollment, he was fearful that the future was not bright.  After a week of observations and many consultations, he immediately put key changes in place and began to look at ways to make the school more attractive.

According to Mele, “the first course of action was to prioritize the visibility of myself and the staff, both in and out of the building, and to hold the students accountable. To date, we have had great results improving our student’s behavior and enhancing our community relations since I took over.” He began a series of tours and orientations for perspective parents and students during the school day to allow them to learn firsthand of the Markham experience. These activities have been highly successful and well received.


The academic success of students also became quickly evident. In 2011, no graduates were accepted into specialized high schools. In 2012, there were six, including two to LaGuardia. The school is also seeing an increase in English Language Arts (ELA) scores after tireless work with the students with disabilities population and English Language Learners, and consistently received a grade of “B” on the NYC Progress Report.

“If you look at our Learning Environment Survey in which parents, students, and teachers get to chime in about what they think of IS 51,” Mele notes, “we have increased in every category each year from 2006. That is an ongoing testament to the dedication of our teachers and staff, and our entire community is extremely fortunate to benefit for their efforts. My successes are rooted in theirs.”

After consultation with students, staff, and parents, Mele soon changed the themes of the learning academies he inherited to Fine Arts, Performing Arts, and Media/Technology.

This change “tied into what students were interested in and into what programs our feeder schools had,” according to Mele, “such as the band at PS 30 and the Chorus at PS 22.” In addition to implementing practical curriculum for each academy, enrichment-track classes were developed to benefit the students during their three years at Markham.

The lifeblood of a public middle school is a rich mosaic of teachers, staff, students, and parents, and Mele is proud of the synergy of their efforts.


“We collected over $30,000 this past year for the March of Dimes and that makes us the number-one school in the country” for the March for Babies Campaign 2011, touts Mele. This national distinction, which encompasses all K-12 schools throughout the country, is especially poignant as Markham is classified as a Title 1 school.

“We do not receive big donations…” Mele adds, “we raise our money mostly through the children and staff, one dollar at a time.” Mele is quick to acknowledge Andrew Cataneo (CSI MS Ed. ‘93, Sixth-Year Certificate ’95), Assistant Principal of the Performing Arts Academy, as the primary architect of the event and its ongoing success, adding “We are proud that anyone who visits the school in the springtime is welcomed with hallways covered with March of Dimes donation cards.”

In true Markham tradition, Mele knows that a cornerstone of building tomorrow’s leaders includes instilling a deep sense of social consciousness and civic responsibility. IS 51 participates in the Penny Harvest and Bread for Life, their chorus brightens the rec rooms of local nursing homes, and the school produces a spring musical production and puts on free performances for local elementary schools.

Students are quick to point out the emotional significance that their middle school experiences. One first-year chorus student beamed “We get to visit seniors and make them happy through song! That’s so much better than bringing them cookies!” Also, a recent graduate admitted to a summer of crying after leaving her school behind.


As a History major, Mele knows that knowledge gained in the past is critical to building a better future.

“CSI prepared me to become a great teacher,” said Mele.  “I remember a course that went over the nuts and bolts of lesson planning, aims, and objectives with Professor Goldstein. It provided me the structure I needed to be successful, and if I was not a successful teacher, I would have never made it to this point in my career.”

Mele also says he discovered “the purpose of education and our system with CSI Professor Armitage,” adding “It’s funny… in 1998 I was in her class, and today she comes to IS 51 with an excellent crop of student teachers from CSI.”

“I have many fond memories of CSI and I am excited to be in a position where I can give back to the institution and the community that helped shaped my career,” Mele notes.

This academic year, the IS 51 renaissance continues. With more families in the community believing in IS 51, enrollment in the honors classes has doubled and the PTA has increased its role and strengthens the community involvement and academic trajectories.

Tirelessly dedicated to the student experience, Mele doesn’t rest on his success when he notes “there is still a great deal more we have to do, but thanks to the teachers, the staff, and the volunteers who believe in our school, I believe we are on the right path.”