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Principal Commitment

Albany High School invests in local talent by naming Arbor Hill native Cecily Wilson to interim post

by Darryl McGrath on June 27, 2012

Urban school districts have long aimed to grow their own talent, by enticing gifted young teachers who graduated from local schools back home to start their careers and—more importantly—stay for a long-term commitment.ÊAlbany Public Schools have just announced one such successful effort with the appointment of Cecily Wilson as interim principal at Albany High School.

Wilson, who was born and raised in Albany and graduated from the high school in 1995, is widely expected to be named permanently to the position. She has served the equivalent of an assistant principal’s position for two years, first as principal of one of the high school’s “houses” or divisions. In 2011, she headed the high school’s Leadership Academy, following a major restructuring of the school that divided it into four special academic concentrations known as academies.

She previously taught at Arbor Hill Elementary School, which she attended as a child. She also served as principal of the Sheridan Preparatory Academy, another city elementary school.

Wilson graduated from Princeton University and earned her master’s degree in literacy and language development at New York University. During a winter break in college, she came back to Albany to shadow a teacher at Arbor Hill Elementary, an experience she recalls as decisive.

“I just loved it, so that kind of stayed in my head, to come back home,” she said. The pull of family and familiarity, and a desire to give something back to her home city reinforced that feeling during graduate school.

She replaces David McCalla, who was principal for three years and who will now head two programs in the district to improve graduation rates and college readiness.

Cecily Wilson photographed by Molly Eadie

Wilson will have her work cut out for her. The State Education Department still ranks Albany High as a school “in need of improvement.” Among the reasons: a graduation rate of 52.3 percent.

Wilson is starting her high-profile position just as the Albany Public Schools prepare to select a new leader. The district announced Wednesday three finalists for the superintendent’s position. They are Geoffrey Gordon, who heads the Port Washington Public Schools on Long Island; Tim Mains, a principal from the Rochester public schools; and Marguerite Alecia Vanden Wyngaard, deputy superintendent of Paterson Public Schools in New Jersey.

The school board expects to announce the new superintendent by late July.