Thursday, January 05, 2012

Liberty for all

Jeff Liberty, headmaster at Boston Green Academy is a former BPS student, who grew up in a modest family home in Dorchester. While attending Boston Latin School he learned that doing well academically meant a chance at the middle class and a move away from poverty. Education was connected to prosperity.

While in high school he worked hard, which led to his acceptance to Brandeis University. Initially, he thought he wanted to be an attorney- although his grandmother wanted him to be a priest-but after having extraordinary history teachers while in college he decided that teaching would be his profession instead. During his college years, he worked for Upward Bound, which solidified his desires to be a teacher, thus following graduation he would return to Boston to become a teacher.

In 1992, he found himself at Fenway High. Larry Myatt, a founder of Fenway and also a Brandeis graduate, hired him as a student teacher. At this time Fenway High was also trying to create an identity and redefining the meaning of teaching. Fenway’s goal was to graduate every student. While at Fenway, he received great training and established great relationships with staff and BPS families.

Soon after, Jeff was offered a job at Madison Park as a history teacher. After two years at the school he took a job in Sao Paulo, Brazil. While in Brazil, Liberty ascertained the importance of having skilled faculty members and dedicated teachers. He also witnessed inequalities in education. The wealthiest students had the greatest access compared to everyone else. Teaching in Brazil developed his teaching skills. As Liberty says, “ I cut my teeth as a teacher while in Brazil.” After four years in Brazil he made a decision to come back to the states.

When he returned, he taught for two years and then decided to work for the administrative offices of BPS. He wanted to see how the external and internal offices operated and how to reform existing schools. He worked with the High School Renewal program, now known as High School Support. While there he proposed new models for new schools. During this time he also interned as a leadership fellow to prepare himself for his future role as headmaster.

During his fellowship, the Horace Mann Charter was making headlines in education. This new concept intrigued Liberty. It would allow for more flexibility and autonomy. Thus, when the opportunity came to lead a new Horace Mann Charter school starting in South Boston that would take over an existing lower performing school, Liberty jumped at the chance.

As the headmaster of Boston Green Academy, Jeff aligns his goals with that of the Acceleration Agenda. The school looks to prepare every child for college. “We do a good job graduating high school students, but not college. That’s why at BGA we try to incorporate curriculum that prepares students for college,” Liberty says. He is establishing relationships with families based on trust and common vision. The BGA community also is doing more to learn about the trauma of its students.

He has been able to this with the strong support of Superintendent Carol R. Johnson. “Dr. Johnson has a real commitment to think differently and creatively. I take genuinely her goal to talk to parents and also to engage them about the process. She is an inspiration to me,” Liberty says.

Jeff Liberty looks to give back to his Boston community by offering a great education to all students. “I’m from Boston. It made me and I am grateful for the experiences,” Liberty continues, “ I am committed to having my students receive similar experiences. Now we just have to do it and we will!"