The high school principal in Brentwood — Long Island’s biggest district — has been named New York’s principal of the year by the state’s School Administrators Association, the group recently announced.
The annual award is given to an administrator who has “set the pace, character, and quality of education for the students in his or her school.”
Richard Loeschner, 54 of Oakdale, has been an administrator for 16 years, serving as principal of Brentwood High School since 2009.
The association, a group that represents nearly 7,200 school administrators, supervisors and coordinators, credits Loeschner for “leading the school out of significant challenges and turning the school culture around.”
It’s under his leadership, the group said, that the graduation rate has increased by 17 percent.
And it’s been during his tenure, the group added, that school suspensions have declined by 65 percent.
Loeschner strives to make himself available to students, greeting them every day in the halls and attending as many extra-curricular and special events as he can, the group said.
The group quoted one parent, Judy Crawford, as saying Loeschner is “a dedicated, caring, hardworking man who always seems to place the needs of others before him.”
Brentwood High School served 4,288 students in the 2014-2015 school year, state records show. Of that group, 78 percent were Hispanic or Latino, 13 percent were African American and 6 percent were white.
The school had a 76 percent graduate rate in 2015, the principal said. Just as important, the 5-year graduation rate was 80 percent.
“We have a huge bilingual population, about 1,200 kids,” Loeschner said in an interview. “Many of them need the five years to graduate. Some are 14 or 15 when they arrive…and speak no English.”
Brentwood has a long history of embracing newcomers, he said.
“We’ve welcomed immigrants for 40 or 50 years,” the principal said. “Our school has grown by over 900 students in the last five years – and most of them are immigrants. We welcome every kid.”
More than 50 of the district’s 260 teachers teach bilingual students, he said, adding that the staff shares his vision.
Outside the school’s confines, however, the community sometimes struggles with spates of street violence that police say may be gang-related. More than 100 people gathered there on Sunday to sing and pray for peace amid recent shootings.
Despite the challenges, Loeschner said he’s honored to work in the district.
“It’s a special place because the kid are flat out great,” he said. “They have such appreciation for good educators and people who care about them. They are appreciative, kind, intelligent, insightful. They deeply love their schools and their community.”