Best of Brooklyn: Principal Melessa Avery
A new principal arrived at the troubled P.S. 273 in East New York nearly a decade ago and began work that's finally turned the school around.
Melessa Avery says that when she first arrived, students were unhappy and often violent.
Teachers had wanted her to address anger issues that some said were impossible to tackle.
"I was always told that I'm fighting too hard for this because, you know, it's East New York," Avery says. "Kids like to fight...they come with so much of baggage."
Instead of cracking down on bad behavior, she says she started rewarding academic achievements and good deeds.
"I spend a lot of money on just celebrating kids," she says. "I bought bicycles for their reading, and scooters. And I celebrated them with medals for student of the month."
Teachers say the plan has worked. Students seem happier to be in class and the amount of fights has decreased.
Because of the progress, P.S. 273 has received awards, and Avery has been chosen to try and help another school in the neighborhood.