A Message from the Principal
Jim Fernandez, In His Own Words
(Einstein principal James Fernandez recently sat down for a taped interview. An edited version follows.)
I want to keep serving these kids, and our community. I want to do for them what they need to be successful. How can we make your life productive now, and more importantly, how can we do it for the future?
I’m from southwestern Pennsylvania. I understand loyalty. And I understand paycheck. And I work for you people. When you ask me my opinion, I’ll give you my opinion. I provide a very honest environment.
The first day of classes, I tell teachers, don’t talk about who discovered America. Tell them who you are. Tell them why you like to teach. Let them know you, start to trust you. They’ll run through walls for you.
People’s biggest misconception about Einstein is that it’s not a good academic institution and that it’s not safe. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We have kids that receive full academic scholarships every year to prestigious universities, most recently Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, MIT. We encourage kids to participate. They can have fun. We have a lot of poor kids. But we have a wonderful, wonderful caring community.
The hardest thing I had to learn about Einstein was the lack of interest, motivation by some of the kids. It was a lack of understanding of the importance of a formal education. When I talk to the juniors and the seniors, I’ll say, got any friends that aren’t here anymore? You may be dropping out of life, just like they dropped out of here. When you make a mistake, pick yourself up and keep going.
The HSA’s (High School Assessments) make it a little different. You can’t just fulfill your credit obligation. You have to take (the course) and pass it and then pass the HSA. You can’t graduate in June if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do between now and then. Some students may be very upset on June 5, and that might get the message back to the other ones. We’re already starting to analyze our junior scores and work with those kids for next year.
They get behind in ninth grade. That’s our biggest challenge. Next year I’m going to do everything I can to have teams in ninth grade.
When I first met with kids the summer that I started, every time I mentioned sports, they were embarrassed. I’d talk about academics and they’d say, yeah well, some of us go to college. They had no pride in their school. That’s the reason for “Einstein – the place to be.” Where else would you want to be but Albert Einstein High School? I want them to be able to say, you know what – you’re right. It is the place to be.
I now skip dinner before the football games because I’m afraid I’ll be late to see the band come in. We have one of the biggest bands in the county, and they’re darn good. You’ve got the cheerleaders. The drums are going. The poms, the flags. It’s great. I get so emotional every time it happens.
I think more and more kids are becoming aware of the fact that they’re not going to be kids forever. Here comes 18 and adulthood. So they’re listening to us. Are we 100 percent successful? No. But we’re more successful than we were. They care now. They have pride in their school.