The third time was the charm in efforts to land a high-profile New York City educator to head the $232-million downtown arts high school.
Or was it the fourth time?
Kim Bruno, longtime head of the LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts has accepted the job of principal at the Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts.
Bruno had tentatively accepted the post at the 4-year-old campus at least twice before, but this time officials in the Los Angeles Unified School District are certain she is switching coasts.
“Kim Bruno was the resounding favorite of the selection committee, and I am very supportive of their decision,” said Tommy Chang, the senior district administrator with jurisdiction over the school. “It’s very exciting for that community.”
The selection committee included teachers and parents, with their choice subject to approval by L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy. Chang said Deasy strongly supports the selection.
Bruno replaces Norm Isaacs, who resigned over what he characterized as inadequate financial support from L.A. Unified. Since its opening, the striking campus overlooking the 101 Freeway has been beset by a revolving door of principals.
Outside donors also had not stepped up as expected to help the school. The arrival of Bruno could change the funding dynamic. She was known for overseeing a program that attracted strong outside dollars.
At one point, billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad had been willing to supplement the principal’s salary by $75,000 to attract a top-tier candidate such as Bruno. It wasn’t clear Tuesday if Broad was still so inclined, but Chang said the district would compensate Bruno according to the regular scale for principals.
Bruno, who could not be reached for comment, headed an Upper Westside school that, in an earlier incarnation, was the inspiration for the movie “Fame.”
A guide to New York schools describes the campus as “one of the most diverse and sought-after schools in the city,” which “educates children of movie stars along with children poor enough to qualify for free lunch.... There is a spirited energy to the building that comes from being around students who are passionate about their work.”
Entrance is by audition, and academic achievement also factors in. In contrast, the Cortines school has no entrance requirements, and students from the surrounding neighborhood are given admissions preference. Budget cuts have led to the elimination of arts instruction in area middle schools, which may have contributed to the limited local interest in the arts high school.
Not all reviews of Bruno are overwhelming. A survey reported that 59% of the school’s teachers “say the principal is an effective manager” as compared with a citywide average of 74%.
Parent Mary DiPalermo told a New York City publication that Bruno was an effective leader.
“She ran LaGuardia with a firm hand, and I had some arts-over-academics issues with her, but she really was a strong advocate for the school,” DiPalermo told DNAinfo New York.
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