The future and the past came together at Kingston High School this week when Adrian Manuel officially took over as the building principal. Manuel, a Class of 1996 KHS alum, had spent his entire professional career in the South Bronx, an experience he said was rewarding enough that the only reason he left was because he wanted to make a positive impact in the community where he grew up.
“When I took this job, there was no reason to leave my school and every reason to stay,” Manuel said on his second day on the KHS campus. “I have given 10 years of blood, sweat, tears, passion and hard work to kids in the South Bronx, but I never grew up there. I adopted the community and they adopted me. To give back here when I know I’ve been giving to other communities is priceless.”
Manuel was sitting in his new office during the nearly hour-long interview, a base of operations recently vacated by Marie Anderson, who decided to step down from Kingston High to take over as principal at Crosby Elementary. Boxes yet to be unpacked were stacked neatly in the corner in a room Manuel said he planned on spending little time in as principal, a practice he adopted at during his tenure at Accion Academy in the Bronx. It was, he said, at least partly inspired by his own time as a student at Kingston High.
“When I was a student here, in my four years I couldn’t tell you who the principal was,” he said. “I remember passing this office and thinking, ‘He’s in there somewhere.’ Unless you were going to get in deep trouble, you didn’t know who the principal was. But you’re going to see me around the campus.”
Manuel, the son of former alderman Clint Brown, grew up in Kingston. He spent time at Meagher, Chambers and Edson elementary schools before transferring to George Washington Elementary in the 3rd grade and staying there until attending J. W. Bailey Middle School. He spent his formative years living on Franklin Street right down from the public library, a building in which he first came onto the radar of the Kingston City School District.
It was during a forum on education and charter schools four years ago where Manuel spoke of his formative years in the district as a student, and how he was able to overcome obstacles faced by many kids in the district today to become a success.
“I wasn’t going there to promote the idea of a charter school; I was there to promote the idea of education empowering kids who were disadvantaged,” said Manuel. “Often times in the papers, these are the same kids who are being arrested. These are the kids who are dropping out. And I think what came out of it was that, and this is sad for me to say, but there’s a uniqueness in a young boy having biracial parents who had their own struggles, growing up in Kingston, seeing my friends go through issues like gangs and violence and making it through.”
After graduating from Kingston High, Manuel earned his bachelor’s in social studies from New York University, his master’s in secondary education from Lehman College and his master’s in educational leadership from Baruch College. He’s currently enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania to earn his doctorate in educational leadership.