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Hyde Park charter school principal wins state honor

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  May 17, 2011 11:35 AM

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Jillian Nesgos

(Boston Renaissance Charter Public School)

Jillian Nesgos received the Thomas C. Passios Outstanding Principal Award for 2011 from state Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester at the spring conference of the Massachusetts Elementary School Principals’ Association.

A principal from a local charter school has received the state’s highest honor for an elementary or middle school principal.

Jillian Nesgos, principal of the Primary House at Boston Renaissance Charter Public School in Hyde Park, won the Thomas C. Passios Outstanding Principal Award this month at the spring conference of the Massachusetts Elementary School Principals’ Association in Hyannis.

As the recipient of this honor, she will also be named Massachusetts’ National Distinguished Principal by the United States Department of Education and the National Association of Elementary School Principals at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., this October.

Nesgos said the recognition would help provide her with a platform to share with other educators the methods that have been successful at the school.

“I think one of the best parts of receiving the award is really to highlight the work of the teachers and children here at Renaissance,” Nesgos said. “Part of the work of a charter school is to also replicate best practices and to collaborate with traditional public schools.”

The charter school relocated to Hyde Park just last year, after many years in Bay Village. Nesgos said that in the school’s early years, it struggled with student achievement, but it was able to turn the numbers around by setting higher standards for teachers and providing them with greater support and opportunities for professional development.

“I think part of what has moved the school in a very positive direction has been our teacher development program, because I think it all begins with a culture of respect for teaching, for the profession of teaching,” she said. “So we have very high standards for our teachers and have developed a professional development system where teachers do a lot of professional readings, intensive high-quality trainings for the teachers, as well as embedded classroom support for teachers.”

The school includes three houses and serves children from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. The Primary House, which Nesgos heads, includes grades one through three, where there are currently 528 of the school’s approximately 1,100 students. Separating the grade levels in this way allows teachers and administrators to pursue specific goals for each stage of the children’s education.

Nesgos said teachers in the primary house work intensively with their students, many of whom must overcome deficiencies in language. More than three quarters of the students come from low-income families, mostly from Dorchester and Roxbury, and more than 20 percent come from households where English is not the first language.

To remove outside barriers to the students’ success, the school includes a variety of additional services, including a dental center, a vision center, emotional and mental health services.

Nesgos began teaching at the school when it opened in 1995 and served as a lead teacher for several years before becoming an instructional coach to other teachers. She became principal of the Primary House in 2003 and also serves as lead principal and chief academic officer for the school.

The charter school’s superintendent, Dr. Roger F. Harris, who won the Passios award in 2001, praised Nesgos’ intelligence and hard work.

“Jillian’s knowledge, dedication to the profession and concern for her colleagues is unparalleled,” Harris said in a statement released by the school. “Most important, she is relentless in the pursuit of excellence for her students.”

Email Jeremy C. Fox at

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