DNAInfo: Bed-Stuy Principal Transforms School with Art and Social Justice Programs

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Celeste Douglas-Wheeler, principal of M.S. 57, helps to engage her students BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — When Celeste Douglas-Wheeler arrived at M.S. 57, Ron Brown Academy in 2006, she faced the daunting task of turning around a failing school.

The middle school at 125 Stuyvesant Ave., near Lafayette Avenue, was placed on state’s “Schools Under Registration Review” list for those identified as low-performing.

“I was really a little nervous because at the time, the school had just a bad reputation and people just didn’t want to be here," Douglas-Wheeler, 40, said. "Students, teachers, and parents didn’t really trust us.”

She looked to the arts as a way of engaging her students in learning.

“There was this joy that was missing. I kept saying, 'Why do black and brown children have to see school as a place that’s joyless?'” she said.  

Through a partnership with groups such as the Center for Arts Education and Carnegie Hall, the principal has succeeded in turning around the academy with countless school plays and performances, as well as art instruction to sixth through eighth graders three times a week.

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