Fortunato Rubino: Profile of the Possible

Fortunato (Fred) Rubino

I never knew Fortunato Rubino, but I know what he represented. Unfortunately, Mr. Rubino passed away this morning, taken way too early from his family, his community and the students he faithfully served for decades.

Norm at Ed Notes posted a great celebration of Fortunato Rubino’s life’s work. Reading about the type of man he was, one word really comes to mind: mensch.

I find myself using that word a lot lately. Working in the Department of Education, one does not necessarily come into contact with many people who fit that description. It is even rarer to find at the administrative level. I have learned to value the people who can look me in the eyes and mean what they say.

As Norm said on his blog, Rubino was the type of administrator who shielded his staff and students from the ridiculous dictates of Tweed. His death seems symbolic as the death of an era. After 10 years of Bloomberg, we have gone from having an education system to having a corporatized system that does education, and does it poorly. Mr. Rubino was a man from another era, an era when teachers were respected and experience counted for everything.

Without people like Fortunato Rubino, we are left with a system of robot administrators with no other purpose but to fulfill Tweed’s every last whim. We are stuck with the principal who locks himself up in his office and sees everyone outside of it as a threat. Any union action, any independent thought, any criticism is seen as an attack on the principal itself and must be destroyed.

We are coming into the era when fear and paranoia are the rule in every school building. Cameras will be everywhere, teachers will be in competition with each other and the principal will lord above them all with the power to destroy with the swipe of a pen. There is no such thing as dialogue between staff and administration. Staff meetings are opportunities for administrators to berate teachers into doing whatever it is Tweed wants done at the moment. There is no such thing as cooperation between teachers. All laughter is laughter at the principal and must be eradicated immediately.

Mr. Rubino understood that he was running a public institution, not a business. He understood that he was an educator, not a CEO. He understood that students learn best in a community and that trust was the foundation of building that community. He understood that intimidating, harassing and isolating teachers would only turn them into frazzled human beings who doubt everything they say and do.

While Fortunato Rubino was taken from us too early, his example points the way to what is possible. Administrators can, in fact, buck the system. They can throw their bodies on the machinery and ensure that Tweed’s nonsense does not all filter down to the students. By building social capital within the community, by knowing the parents, the children, the teachers and the local institutions, by knowing their interests and concerns, an educational leader can make the best out of very limited resources. Through imagination and broad-minded tolerance, they can reconcile the competing claims of different groups and formulate actual policy that is not just a memo from Tweed.

We need 10, 20, 30 more Fortunato Rubinos if the children of New York City are to have any hope that their schools will be healthy places of learning. Perhaps teachers, the ones who know what is going on, should take the initiative to become education leaders. Maybe instead of trying to get out of the system, we should try to move up. This would be the only antidote to the small-minded and weak-willed automatons that call themselves administrators today.

The alternative is just too scary to think about.

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11 responses to “Fortunato Rubino: Profile of the Possible

  1. He was the best principal I’ve ever had

  2. He made IS 318 what it was, and why students loved going there. He was a great man who truly cared about his students, his teachers and he always did what he could to make kids step up to the plate to perform and believe in themselves. We were devastated to learn of his passing. I pray that Mr. Windley can fill those shoes…and I do believe he can, as Mr. Rubino was his mentor, as he was to so many others..

  3. I couldn’t agree more with you. This is a tragedy and immense loss for students, teachers, parents and the community alike. I guess god thought his work here was done and he needed him by his side. RIP Mr. Rubino, we will always, always miss you.

  4. Dear Mr Rubino, you were a great men, and you still are in our hearts.
    The reason I send my daughter to IS 318 was thanks to you!
    You will remain in our prayers. We love you

  5. Pingback: Teacher in Crisis | assailedteacher

  6. I am an actual student that started in 2009 and I’ve seen the things he didi as not a principal but as an open-minded human being. let me tell you, things have changed ever since his resignation of being principal. I hope that my new principal can exact his standards and generosity to Mr. Rubino.
    Rest In Peace Mr. Rubino… you’re a good guy.

  7. Mr Rubino, was wonderful principal, and a great man. Thank you for accepting my daughter at 318 . Best middle ever , thanks to you!!
    I was sad to learn of your passing. You will be miss by many. God bless your family. RIP Mr Rubino

  8. District # 14 Principals

    Fred you were a great friend, colleague and leader!
    We love you.

  9. Mr. Freddy Rubino gave my daughter an opportunity to have 3 great years at IS 318. He welcomed her and fellow classmates from St. Cecilia School with open arms. I will never forget that and many other kind gestures he did over the years for both of my children. I only wish her had more time to make the impact he would have as newly appointed Superintendant. Mr. Windley will do a great job but there will only be one Mr. Rubino. He will be missed but never forgotten. Thanks again, rest in peace.

  10. Pingback: The tragically early passing of Fred Rubino, an influential Brooklyn educator | Christopher X J. Jensen

  11. You will be missed Mr rubino from your former student rest in peace.

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