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BY SAM SPOKONY | The New York Harbor School, a public high school on Governors Island that trains students in marine science and technology, will start this school year with a new interim principal. Thirty-one-year-old Edward Biedermann, the school’s assistant principal since 2010, will be taking the reins from Nate Dudley, who led the school since its 2003 founding in Bushwick, Brooklyn and oversaw its move to Governors Island. Biedermann spoke to the Downtown Express about his approach to his new role and future plans for the Harbor School.
Where did you work before coming to the Harbor School?
Since 2003, I had been a teacher at the Chelsea Career and Technical Education High School. I taught social studies there, and, in particular, U.S. history and government. During that time I also served as the social studies department chair and as the school’s data specialist.
What originally drew you to the Harbor School?
I came to the school at a time when I was ready to make the transition from teacher to school leader. I was specifically looking for a school that did not screen its freshman class — one that allowed for, by and large, open enrollment. Basically, I wanted to work at a school that was really focused on accelerating student achievement and one that truly understood the potential of young people. When I first interviewed for the job at the Harbor School, [co-founder and program director] Murray Fisher took me out on one of the school’s small passenger boats, around the harbor and under the Brooklyn Bridge. He was showing me what the experience is like for the school’s students, and I thought to myself, ‘This is clearly a place that’s providing something special.’
What lessons or ideas will you take with you upon entering your new role?
The top rule at the Harbor School has always been ‘safety first.’ That will continue to be my first rule. Nate Dudley also created a very strong social justice mission that still permeates the school, and I think that as we move forward in expanding the opportunities we provide to students, that spirit will remain. We need to continue exposing the students, many of whom come from landlocked communities, to new experiences that bring them closer to the water. For many, these experiences will prepare them for life-long careers on or near the water. Nate leaves big shoes to fill, but I’m hopeful that I can follow in his footsteps, and that I too can inspire our staff, faculty and students to succeed.
How would you characterize your goals for the Harbor School’s new Marine Science and Technology (MAST) Center, which opens this fall?
The MAST Center will be an incredible place for students to enhance their studies, and it will help them become more competitive college applicants. In the short term, the Center will house the Harbor School’s aquaculture, vessel operations and underwater diving programs. In the long term, we’re hoping to expand the facility to an even greater scale. There have been discussions about possibly building out further off of Pier 101 and installing additional smaller piers suited for smaller boats. There have also been talks about building a sophisticated simulator system in the MAST. Center, where students could practice being in the water while staying in the building.
Are there any plans to incorporate middle school grades into the Harbor School?
There have been tentative discussions about creating a separate, harbor-oriented middle school in each of the five boroughs. But there’s certainly nothing concrete about any of this yet, and for now we’re just gauging what the public’s and the city’s interest in those plans would be.
As a former social studies teacher, could you ever imagine yourself leading a school like this?
This wasn’t something I had set out to do when I started my career, but it’s certainly something that I welcome. And the marine science aspect of this job is really a treat. It’s the perk of this position. To be involved with a school that has a serious environmental focus, one that wants to train students to be stewards of the environment, is a wonderful thing.