INWOOD — An Inwood principal received a prestigious award Wednesday, just weeks after the Department of Education turned down his school's request to expand.
Salvador Fernandez, the head of Inwood JHS 52, beat out four finalists around the city to claim the 2013 Elizabeth Rohatyn Prize.
The prize, which comes with a $15,000 check to the winning school, is given annually by the teacher development non-profit Teaching Matters and is awarded to a principal who shows innovative ways to increase teacher effectiveness.
Fernandez, the award's third winner, claimed the prize based on Inwood 52's system of self and peer assessment, which is designed to highlight each teacher's areas of strength and weakness.
The system, which Fernandez started when he arrived at the school seven years ago, is non-punitive.
"There's no gotcha," Fernandez, 53, said. "It's all about if you as a professional can honestly assess where you think you are. And the teachers are really honest about their practice."
Strong teachers are important at Inwood 52, where 62 percent of the school's 575 students are English language learners, while another 15 percent have special needs.
"That's a lot of students that some people just expect to fail," Fernandez said. "We do not expect our students to fail. We expect them to be successful and we constantly push the instruction in order to get them to do the work that is needed."
Fernandez' award comes after the Department of Education rejected Inwood 52's plans to expand from a 6-8 to a 6-12 middle school, instead opting to place a new high school in the Inwood 52 building at 650 Academy Street.
Parents in the district released a petition on Wednesday asking the DOE to halt further co-locations in the northern Manhattan. The petition had reached 50 signatures within a day.
For his part, Fernandez said that he believes the new high school — a grades 9-14 school that will allow students to stay two extra years in exchange for an associates degree — will be a boon to uptown children.
"The school that they're bringing into this building, I think it will be an excellent school for our community." Fernandez said. "When they told me that was the school I felt comfortable."
Many parents have worried that the new high school will take rooms for art and eliminate IS 52's marching band, but Fernandez said that he expects the DOE to listen to his feedback about where in the building to place the school.
"I've already have an idea where they can sit comfortably in the school. They'll have their own entrance, so they're going to take my ideas to heart."