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Bronx school hopes to change name to honor The Boss

Hank Steinbrenner speaks to third, fourth and fifth

Hank Steinbrenner speaks to third, fourth and fifth graders at P.S. 55 in South Bronx before Game 5 of American League Championship Series. The school has petitioned the Department of Education to change its name in honor of George Steinbrenner. Credit: Jim Baumbach

There's already a high school in Tampa named after George Steinbrenner. Soon an elementary school a few miles south of Yankee Stadium might receive the same distinction.

Luis Torres, principal of P.S. 55 in the South Bronx, has filed paperwork with the New York City Department of Education to change the school's name in honor of the late Yankees owner, and Torres said he is optimistic that the petition will be approved.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said applications are reviewed annually. The deadline is March 1.

"We're probably the poorest congressional district in the whole city," Torres said, "so why not have the richest franchise adopt us and maybe we can really have an impact in changing the community."

Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner, George's oldest son, visited before Game 5 of the ALCS Oct. 20, and as he walked the hallways, he spoke openly about his desire to improve the school's library, health care and safety situations.

Inside a third-floor classroom, he channeled his late father - who always had a special fondness for encouraging children to do well in school - and urged a few dozen third-, fourth- and fifth-graders to take a special interest in reading books about history. "You should have fun, I hope you do, but don't forget to read," he said. "Read, read, read, read. Knowledge is everything. I used to read encyclopedias for fun in junior high. Keep reading."

Most of the questions from students to Steinbrenner revolved around the Yankees and their star players, most notably Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. But one girl raised her hand and asked Steinbrenner if he missed his father, who died in July.

The question appeared to take Steinbrenner by surprise.

"That's a very good question," he said. "Yes, I do, as a dad, as my father. Because long before all this stuff started with the Yankees, before he bought the Yankees, he was just 'Dad.' We spent a lot of time together. Now we've got to move on, we've got to carry on."

Torres said he later asked the girl - he said she's a third-grader - how she came up with the question. He was pleased to hear her say that she had talked earlier with her father about who Steinbrenner was.

Torres said his school district consists of four housing projects and three shelters, so he's always happy when he hears stories about positive interaction with family members regarding what's going on at school.

When Torres became the principal six years ago, he said he reached out to the Yankees in hopes of building a relationship. In addition to sending unused game giveaways to the school, the Yankees have had players such as Robinson Cano and Ivan Rodriguez stop by to meet the kids, Torres said.

During the tour, Torres brought Steinbrenner to a prekindergarten classroom to show him a bullet hole in one of the windows as an indication of the environment in which these kids are growing up.

"It's not really about money," Torres said. "It's about positive incentives and positive role models for the kids."

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