Educator is Dedicated to Helping Disadvantaged Kids Finish High School

Thursday, July 10, Jaclyn Anglis, NY Daily News
Getting some of the city’s most disadvantaged students on the straight and narrow path requires creativity — and Robert Zweig is just the man for the job.

The 55-year-old deputy superintendent of District 79, a citywide support program, pulls out all the stops for his students with interrupted studies, giving them one-on-one lessons, a performing arts program and even trips to ice skating rinks.

Those measures mean the world to the students, many of whom have learning disabilities, are recovering drug addicts or have been incarcerated. Some students never finished middle school.

“I always felt my passion and my purpose, so to speak, was to work with students not following that regular pathway,” said Zweig, of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

“The opportunity to meet with policymakers and help people think about (this) population of young people is the most exciting thing about the work.”

For developing programs to help embattled students earn high school equivalency diplomas, Zweig is nominated as a Daily News Hometown Hero in Education.

As deputy superintendent, Zweig has a voice in policy, budgets and the direction alternative school programs will go.

He played a big role in steering District 79 away from just a technical curriculum to one that is more comprehensive.

Now, every graduate must have a resume and cover letter and meet with an adviser at the college and career center.

Nominate an educator for a Hometown Hero award
“Let’s not just let them leave with a diploma, but with a portfolio,” Zweig said.

For 30 years, he has worked with students pursuing high school equivalency diplomas, first as a teacher, then as an assistant principal and principal before becoming deputy superintendent.

His early days as a teacher encouraged him to think outside the box — one class he taught was even held in a converted apartment.

But he sees the challenges as an opportunity.

“That gave me a sense of freedom,” Zweig said. “I could really roll up my sleeves and work with young people.”

Now as deputy superintendent, the father of two wants to further expand the college and career center and develop a paid internship program to keep the students in school.

“When it works, it works beautifully,” he said.
Originally posted in NY Daily News