BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Call it the school of hard knocks.
Tomas Ramirez, Ph.D., is so intent on being the best principal he can be for Bassick High School that he spent much of last week visiting the homes of each of the school’s 225 incoming freshmen, personally presenting them with their fall schedules and school uniform guidelines.
“We’re building a foundation for strong parent and community relations,” Ramirez said Friday, taking a short break from knocking on doors at the Charles F. Greene Homes. “We’re attaching a name to a face.”
Ramirez will be that new face of Bassick when it opens Sept. 1 — and families hope for a long time afterward. Since 2010, the school has had eight principals, including a year in which four assistant principals were each named interim principal of a single grade.
Bassick is one of the state’s lowest-performing high schools, but Ramirez believes showing families that he cares and supports his students will go a long way to reversing that situation. On Friday, Assistant Principal Linda Bagoly and Angel Resto, a member of the city’s parent advisory committee, joined him on his impromptu visits.
“They’re shocked, but in a good way,” Bagoly said of families’ reaction to finding the new principal at their front door. “They’re hopeful.”
New freshman Milannie Moran said she had gotten a heads up that Ramirez was visiting students a few days before he came to her apartment in the Greene Homes. She said she might have worried she was in some sort of trouble if she hadn’t been prepared.
“They told me and I was, like, ‘Oh my God!’” she said, shaking Ramirez’s hand.
She told him she had already gotten her school uniform, choosing black pants and a dark green shirt, one of the school’s colors.
“Green and white… Go Lions!” Ramirez said with a smile.
With 29 years of experience in Rhode Island schools, the father of five grown children spent the last several years in central offices and consulting. But he wanted to get back into the day-to-day experience of running a school.
“And I wanted to be in an urban environment,” said Ramirez, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a doctorate from the University of Connecticut.
He will be renting an apartment in the city’s Black Rock section because he wanted to live within the Bassick district. His wife, Yony Vigil, will join him permanently in about 18 months after she retires from her job at the State House in Providence.
The move will be a big change for Ramirez, who came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic when he was 11 and who has lived in Rhode Island since 1972.
Spending five to six hours a day visiting with new Bassick families has given him a handle on the area and the challenges ahead.
“This is an excellent initiative,” Bagoly said.
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