While the school received a 44.9 out of a possible 100 on its 2011-12 progress report, it took a step up out of the shadows with a C grade, placing the school in the 24th percentile when compared to other schools in the city.
After recovering from a devastating dip in previous reports, placing the school in the bottom 8 percent in the city with a D grade, many are praising new principal Marcos Bausch for the sharp performance increase.
Community family worker Peggy McCarthy has been at the school for 29 years and remembers children skateboarding down the halls, getting into fights and years of poor performance.
“Bausch came to our school a little more than a year and a half ago and I can’t tell you the changes the school has gone through,” McCarthy said. “The children are engaged.”
Growing up, Bausch spent much of his nearly 30 years in North Brooklyn playing and coaching basketball for dozens of leagues. He taught in the district for nine years at PS 19 on Grand Street and at Junior High School 50 on the Southside.
Before taking over as principal at MS 126, Bausch was assistant principal for eight years at a school in Washington Heights.
“One might think as an outsider looking in that I just took the job because I wanted to be principal and that I didn’t really know the history of the school, but to the contrary,” Bausch explained. “Once it came up as a possible option, I really did my due diligence. I knew people who were working here, the issues it had, so I really had a pulse of the school before I started.”
Although there were tough obstacles to overcome, Bausch said he was ready to deal with the disorganization with class scheduling, the unruliness of the hallways and with teachers who he says were not up to the task.
His first order of business was to cut 22 teachers, immediately removing 65 percent of his staff, and bring in some new blood to his classrooms.
“I knew how bad the school was academically and environmentally in terms of discipline and safety,” he said. “I really had some severe challenges.”
Other changes included the addition of a second guidance counselor and a sharper focus on the arts.
Today, he has added an aquatic robotics program, a chess team and the NASA Space Camp program, where students pen pal with an international student with an end goal of visiting space camp.
“I always felt passionate about giving back to my community and the same holds true for taking over 126,” he said. “ I wanted to be able to come back and attack my extended community.”
Irena Raia had a daughter in 6th grade last year at MS 126, and after hearing some of the stories about the school’s past performance, she insisted on meeting with Bausch before coming to the school.
Since she lives in the neighborhood, Raia said she needed to find an option that was close to her home.
“I gave myself a chance to meet and talk to Mr. Bausch, and he knew how to explain everything, what he’s doing and how he’s preparing the kids,” Raia said. “I changed my mind, I registered my daughter and I’m very happy about it.”
Raia, along with hundreds of other parents, is now enrolling her son at the school this September and breathing new life into the Greenpoint school.
“Somebody has to tell everyone that something good is happening at this school, and we can't just judge from previous opinions,” she said.
With a thorough recruitment initiative at dozens of elementary schools around the community, Bausch has since doubled the amount of incoming students from 65 to over 125 students for September in the 6th grade.
“There was a horrible perception of the school in the community and parents didn’t want to send their kids here,” Bausch said.
Today, he is looking forward to bringing in a fresh class at his school and is confident that the next progress report, expected to come out later this month, will show at least a B, but he is optimistic it can be higher.
“That would be a tremendous step in the right direction,” he said. “There’s a new sheriff in town and change is upon us.”