Shawn Rux: A Real-Life Clark Kent

On the desk of Middle School 53’s principal is a row of Superman collectibles. However, teachers, parents and students have come to realize the real Superman sits behind that desk, not on it.

Shawn Rux, a member of the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, AFSA Local 1, has served as a catalyst for change and improvement in the school since he began there in 2011.

Middle School 53, located in Queens, New York, had long been an F-rated school and wasn’t making any progress. With a low attendance rate, 22 fewer teachers, no office staff and constant fights, Rux had the nearly impossible mission of helping his middle school flourish—but he did just that.

In just five years, Rux has raised the school rating from an “F” to a “B,” despite the setbacks of a damaging storm. He reduced fights almost immediately by designating each grade to a different floor.

The advancement continued with improving attendance (currently reaching 91 percent), while the suspensions dropped from 300 in 2010 to 25 this year.

It is now common to see students arrive at school early and leave late. Many students run to school each morning to receive “Rux Bux,” the reward system at Middle School 53. “Rux Bux” can be exchanged for dress-down days or other treats and rewards.

Students also enjoy the art curriculum implemented by Rux. The school remains open late on the weekdays and opens on the weekends for step, drum, dance and chorus. This program has yielded several CDs that showcase a collaboration of staff and students’ music production skills.

Rux set out to accomplish more than correcting the school’s issues. He set his goals to encompass student prosperity and enthusiasm for their education. This is why he implemented “Swagger,” which stands for “students who achieve good grades earn respect.”

Teaching and motivating students about education is very important to Rux. While growing up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, he was surrounded by crime and violence. He was fortunate enough to attend college. “I believe in the power of education,” Rux says. “Education is the answer to all of our questions as well as our dreams. Education saves lives, and I am a living testament of that because education saved my life.”

AFSA is so proud of the powerful impact Rux has made in his school community. We hope to continue seeing school leaders like him putting great dedication and effort into their students.