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Talana Bradley – School Leaders Have Twice the Impact in High-Poverty Schools

Article by Patrick Kobler June 13, 2013 //   6 minute read


“My residency experience exposed me to a school committed to developing young women leaders, which ignited my passion to be a transformative leader.”

- Talana Bradley, School Leader, Young Women’s Leadership School of Brooklyn

When Talana Bradley speaks about school leadership and being a role model for young women, her voice conveys an unmistakable sense of urgency.  For Talana, being a principal is more than a job – it is her mission.  And by transforming the lives of young women using education as a tool to uplift and empower, Talana’s mission is rooted in her school’s guiding philosophy: “A Leader Grows in Brooklyn . . . Cultivating Confidence and Compassion.”  

Under Talana’s leadership, the Young Women’s Leadership School of Brooklyn (YWLSB) has developed both culturally and academically.  In 2011, the all-girls school received a rating of “A” for both student academic progress and school environment. This past academic year, Talana’s school continued its upward trend, seeing 56% of its eighth graders receive high school credit and earning the New York City Department of Education’s highest quality review score – “well developed.” 

The reason Talana has been able to lead a school that cultivates its students is largely due to her preparation and foresight about urban school leadership.  Taking on the role of principal in today’s schools - especially schools that are failing or those in high-poverty areas - is challenging.  School leaders are tasked with an array of duties ranging from maintaining a large budget, to developing great teachers who will raise student achievement, to dealing with student and  community concerns.

Talana possessed the savvy to realize this challenge even before assuming the principalship and took steps to adequately prepare herself to become a transformative school leader.  In fact, though Talana had already earned her principal certification and could have applied to be a school leader anywhere in New York, she felt that “something was missing” and sought out more rigorous leadership preparation before doing so. 

This decision led Talana to join the New York City Leadership Academy’s (NYC Leadership Academy) Aspiring Principals Program - an AREL Network Member and nationally-recognized program that trains talented educators to turn around troubled schools.  And she entered with the attitude that though schools may be troubled, their students did not have to be.  That a zip code did not have to determine a child’s future.  That a great school leader could truly be transformative and make twice as much of an impact in a high-poverty school. 

Joining NYC Leadership Academy with a determination to become that transformative school leader, Talana found herself on an unexpected path during her residency ( think medical residency, but for principals) that would lead to her assuming the role of principal for the Young Women’s Leadership School of Brooklyn

When Talana was first accepted into NYC Leadership Academy, she had plans to lead a traditional public school in one of New York City’s highest-need communities.  So she was cautiously optimistic when NYC Leadership Academy assigned her to the Young Women’s Leadership School of Harlem (YWLSH), for her residency.

But within minutes of meeting the school’s students, Talana’s cautious optimism evolved to an intense desire to lead a group of young women eager to learn within a culture of achievement.

Speaking about leading her first all-girls school, Talana notes, “My time at the Leadership Academy was intense.  They really opened me to new ideas and helped me identify my core values as a school leader and how I could inspire educators and garner the respect of the families I would serve.   I wouldn’t trade my time with NYCLA for the world.”

It is clear that the Young Women’s Leadership Network would not trade Talana  for the world either. 

After completing a successful residency and graduating from NYC Leadership Academy, Talana was eventually tapped to be the founding school leader of the Young Women’s Leadership School of Brooklyn (YWLSB).  When the school opened its doors, 74 young women filled the new school’s desks and hallways. 

While each has benefited from Talana’s transformational leadership, Talana’s urgency pushed her to gradually grow the school to 350 students in grades 6-12 with a staff of 24 educators.  And as the academic year closes, Talana is helping to see to fruition plans to expand YWLSB to serve over 550 young women in the coming years. 

Talana Bradley understands that leadership matters in the lives our children.  Now in her fifth year as school leader of YWLSB, she is living proof that determination, urgency and effective preparation can give our kids – every one of them – the transformational leadership needed to succeed. 

Inspired by Talana’s story? Share it by using #SpotlightEDU.  

[This post is part of AREL's Spotlight Series  featuring graduates from across our network of 28 principal preparation programs who embody the sentiment that leadership makes a difference in the lives of children.]