Two Bronx School Principals Receive Prestigious Ryan Award for Closing the Achievement Gap

Concourse Village Elementary and Success Academy Bronx 1 principals receive national award from The Accelerate Institute, with a $25,000 honorarium for leadership excellence in urban K-12 schools.

Alexa Sorden, founding principal of Concourse Village Elementary School in the South Bronx, today received the Ryan Award from the Accelerate Institute for her exceptional school leadership. (Photo: Business Wire)

NEW YORK--()--Alexa Sorden, founding principal of Concourse Village Elementary School, and Elizabeth Vandlik, principal of Success Academy Bronx 1, today were named recipients of the Ryan Award for exceptional leadership in closing the achievement gap in urban K-12 schools. The prestigious award includes a $25,000 honorarium and the opportunity to share their successful approaches at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Pat Ryan, Jr., founder of the Chicago-based Accelerate Institute which sponsors the award, presented Sorden and Vandlik with their awards at surprise assemblies at each of the two schools, surrounded by their students, faculties and staffs. “We created the Ryan Awards five years ago to recognize two leaders each year of the most successful transformational schools in the US,” Ryan said. “This is the first time both winners serve not only the same city, but the same community, the South Bronx. Our goal is to recognize the achievements of these outstanding leaders, enlist them as role models and help current and future principals learn from their successes.”

Under their leadership, both schools have consistently outperformed other schools in their states and cities, according to state proficiency tests.

Sorden founded Concourse Village Elementary in 2013 to replace the New York City District 7 P.S. 385, a failing school serving low-income students. She placed strong emphasis on culture change through steps ranging from establishing a clear Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS) to creating a uniform layout for each classroom to provide students with a strong sense of stability. By 2016, her initiatives helped the K-5 school of 356 students achieve significant learning gains, with almost 99 percent of the students passing the state math exam and 94 percent passing the ELA exam, more than 50 points higher than citywide results.

“All our focus is on learning,” Sorden said. “That’s why I invested so much effort into developing a positive culture and improving our classrooms. I needed students and staff to feel proud to be here. I share this award with all of them.”

Success Academy Bronx 1 serves a minority population of 475 students in grades K-4, and is part of New York City’s largest and highest-performing free, public charter school network. Vandlik became principal of Success Academy Bronx 1 in 2013 after teaching kindergarten and fourth grade at Success Academy Harlem 1. Under her leadership, 83 percent of Bronx 1 students passed the state ELA exam and 99 percent passed the state math exam in 2016, compared to 38 percent and 42 percent for the New York State and New York City, respectively.

“At Success, we are all on one team, working together every day to inspire our scholars and strive for excellence in all that we do,” said Vandlik. “I’m proud to be a part of an organization that empowers educators to reverse the achievement gap, and I am honored to share this award with my Bronx family of scholars, parents and staff who continue to prove what’s possible in public education.”

The Ryan Award is the first national award honoring high-impact school principals in the US. Previous winners have been from Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Nashville, Newark, New Orleans, Phoenix, Wilmington, Del. and Washington, D.C., all heads of schools both district and public charter serving minority populations.

Ryan Award winners are nominated by education leaders across the country. Criteria are: nominees must be urban K-12 principals for at least four years with a measurable record of accelerated student achievement growth.

The Accelerate Institute is dedicated to ensuring all children have the opportunity to achieve to their fullest potential. It identifies high performing, results-focused school leadership with a passion for closing the achievement gap in urban education. For further information on the Ryan Awards and the Accelerate Institute, visit:


Accelerate Institute
Nora Ligurotis, 312.216.1708

Release Summary

Alexa Sorden, founding principal of Concourse Village Elementary School, and Elizabeth Vandlik, principal of Success Academy Bronx 1, today received the Ryan Award for exceptional school leadership.


Accelerate Institute
Nora Ligurotis, 312.216.1708