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Mary-Elaine Leake
Astoria Lutheran School
Evangelical Lutheran Education Association
Astoria, New York

The strong leadership and practical actions of Astoria Lutheran School principal Mary-Elaine Leake have directly resulted in increased solidarity in her school's community, the highest-scoring Early Childhood Education program in New York City, and innovative cross-curricular approaches to instruction. Catalyzing stakeholders to support the merging of the preschool and the grade school, originally operating as two separate entities, and fostering a climate of acceptance and cooperation are among Leake’s major accomplishments as a principal. Owning the process, she surveyed the community to select a new name for the merged school, facilitated redrafting of the mission statement, and created an action plan with input and support of staff and community members. The result was a revitalized spirit, a double digit waiting list for the preschool, and a 9 percent increase in grade school enrollment. The program also received the highest ECERS score out of 256 schools inspected in New York City and surrounding boroughs. At the 126-student, prekindergarten through sixth grade Astoria Lutheran School, where she has been for three years, Leake has introduced multi-age, project-based learning. Solidarity and community collaboration has led to the development of an outdoor classroom/garden on the premises for an ongoing “green” focus. A partnership with Queens Botanical Garden provides hands-on staff training and student workshops. Leake holds a B.A. from Gettysburg College, and an M.A. from New York University.