Educator Leonard Covello
1908
Angelo Patri and Leonard Covello, the first Italian American elementary, and high school principals and recognized educational innovators.


Angelo Patri made his considerable contribution to American society in the field of education. Born in Italy in 1877, he came with his parents to New York's Little Italy in the 1880s. Attracted to schooling, he graduated City College and began a teaching career, and pursued further education at Columbia University's Graduate School. In 1908 he became principal of Public School 4 -the first of his nationality to achieve that post. He later became a junior high school principal. Patri not only taught and served as administrator, he also wrote books about problems of childhood, school and home, and counseling. His publications on child psychology were highly regarded. He also wrote a popular column on education and related matters that was syndicated and informed readers for decades.

Leonard Covello (1887-1982) was another outstanding educator and innovator. Born in Avigliano, Italy in 1887, he came to America in 1906 and lived with his family in East Harlem-soon to become the largest of all Little Italies. After attending local public schools and graduating from Columbia University in 1911 he began to teach at De Witt Clinton High School where he introduced Italian. When the time came for East Harlem to have its own high school the Board of Education concluded that a vocational school would be appropriate for the immigrant peoples. However, Covello and other community leaders including Fiorello H. LaGuardia argued for an academic institution that resulted in Benjamin Franklin High School. Covello served as its principal -the first of his heritage to be named a high school principal in New York. Covello provided extraordinary leadership promoting a holistic educational philosophy that integrated community interests and school activities. For example, under his direction selected students worked in the community as tutors. It became a wholesome model for similar types of educational systems. Covello's doctoral dissertation (New York University,1957) The Social Background of the Italo-American School Child reflects this philosophy. After retirement as a school administrator Covello became consultant of the Puerto Rican Migration Division. He continued his lifelong interest in Italian American activity and was instrumental in founding the American Italian Historical Association. Finally, in his senior years, he returned to Italy to work with reformer Danilo Dolci.






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