TEP's founding principal Zeke Vanderhoek talks to prospective teachers outside the school's clasroom trailers in Washington Heights
Nearly 100 teachers from the Tri-State area packed the auditorium of George Washington High School Tuesday evening to meet Zeke Vanderhoek, the principal behind a three-year-old charter middle school whose $125,000 salaries are fueling a high-profile experiment in human capital.
The teachers were lured to the school's Washington Heights campus — a cluster of classroom trailers just off George Washington's athletic field — with the promise of higher pay and a teacher-centric educational philosophy. Those features garnered the school, called The Equity Project, or TEP, extensive media attention and hundreds of job applications even before it opened in 2009. But since then, its student performance has been lackluster, and nearly a quarter of its hires have left.
Vanderhoek, a 35-year-old former Teach For America teacher dressed in a pinstripe suit, told the crowded room that TEP is exceeding the trajectory he hoped for when he envisioned the school 2007 but has significant room to grow.
"We're slightly ahead of where I'd hoped to be in terms of year three," he said. "Are we anywhere near where we need to be and want to be? Absolutely not. This is not a school that I would say you should come to if you're looking for the well oiled machine that has already achieved its vision."