In the heart of NYC's crowded educational landscape, what does it take for a small, private school to stand out? A. Fantis School of the historic Saints Constantine and Helen Cathedral celebrated its 60th anniversary by ranking in the top 1% of 1,150 schools in NYC, according to the most recently released data for NY State Exams in English and Math. This leap from top 3% last year now places Fantis among the top ten of New York City’s best elementary and middle schools, including some of the city’s most accomplished gifted and talented schools.
Celebrating its 60th year, A. Fantis School remains rooted in its tradition of providing a world class education for its students who go on to continue their success in high school and beyond. But this legacy was put to the test with the pandemic, which presented tremendous challenges to schools who were quickly forced to adapt to online learning, maintain student engagement, and ensure that learning outcomes weren't compromised. The resulting learning loss has been unprecedented, which studies suggest would require nearly half a school year of additional instruction in order to recoup.
In stark contrast, A. Fantis School's journey tells a different tale—academic achievement not only remained steady but grew by over 20% since the start of the pandemic.
When NYC shut down schools on Friday in March 2020, Fantis was operational with full day, virtual instruction for students after just two days. From March through June, students benefited from engaging virtual education balanced with off-screen learning, as well as time for art, music, PE class and even lunch hangouts. This would not have been possible if the school board had not already committed several years earlier to investing in professionally training staff to integrate educational technology with the requisite upgrades in hardware, software and networks. The A. Fantis Reopening Committee—a collection of parents, educators, board and community members—worked for months to ensure that Fantis would open for safe, engaging in-person instruction for all students with a virtual option in September 2020. Nearly 90% of families initially chose in-person and that number grew until virtual learning was phased out.
In this case, A. Fantis School’s small size provided an advantage that the Reopening Committee was able to utilize through ongoing hard work, ingenuity and dedication to students and families. Fantis students never really missed a beat academically, or otherwise. Physical education and recess were carefully planned throughout the day so that all students were physically active. Small classes meant teachers could quickly recognize students’ social-emotional needs and collaborate with the school counselor to intervene as needed.
Uncertain times are when core values become most important, serving as guideposts that illuminate the path. At the heart of A. Fantis School lies two timeless Greek principles: Philotimo—honor, goodness, selflessness, giving without wanting anything—and Parea—nurturing a community. The concept of Paideia, an educational philosophy developed in Ancient Greece that focuses on the whole child, continues to be a successful approach to educating children during the pandemic and beyond.
It goes without saying that none of this would have been possible without the ongoing dedication, creativity and talents of the faculty and staff. They have demonstrated a consistent commitment to putting students first, while also helping to cultivate an environment that supports one another, celebrates successes, shares knowledge and builds trust. A collective focus on the success of all students, not just their own classroom, helps in the pursuit of common goals and a shared vision of success. This ethos stems from school governance, many of whom consider Fantis their second home.
Recently released data from the NY State Education Department reveals that out of 1,150 public elementary and middle schools in NYC, A. Fantis School now ranks at an impressive #6—placing it in the top 1% of all public schools in New York. Fantis sits amongst some of NYC’s best schools for the gifted and talented, such as The Anderson School and Talented and Gifted School for Young Scholars—TAG. However, while offers to such exclusive programs are based on cut-off scores, Fantis admissions are not dependent on entrance exams or standardized tests. For the last several years, Fantis student achievement has been nearly double the performance of their peers in New York—51% average proficiency in English and Math in NYC compared to 95% in Fantis in 2023.
State exams provide helpful information on the academic achievement of our students, but the reality is they occupy little space in daily school life. In middle school, for example, membership in the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) is a big deal. Students earning NJHS membership must not only carry a strong academic standing—9o% average or above in all core subjects—but they must also demonstrate character, leadership, and service, which includes at least 10 hours of community service each quarter. Last year we were thrilled to see over three quarters of our middle school students earning NJHS.
While hitting this level of student achievement was one of the goals laid out in the 5-year strategic plan, it is only part of a broader strategy for Fantis. The School Leadership Team, a collection of teachers and leaders, have laid out key goals for the upcoming school year:
Students will engage in meaningful service projects through the church, school and student council.
Integrated throughout the curriculum for all grades, including Greek, religion, music and the arts, culminating in projects shared with the community.
Integrated in all grades, including opportunities for authentic art and more advanced techniques, which culminate in exhibitions, plays and performance.
Upper school teachers will further integrate the Socratic Method teaching methodology to improve students’ critical thinking, discussion and debate skills.
The best way to experience Fantis is to see it for yourself! Join us for an upcoming School Tour or Virtual Info Session during our Early Admissions Cycle, which ends December 4th. The majority of seats are offered during this time, which allows parents to secure a spot before Christmas and avoid the waitlist in the spring. With classes capped at 20, there are limited seats, especially in the primary entry points of preschool, kindergarten, and middle school.
Principal Tasoulas was very fortunate in the summer of 2017 when his daughter was born and he joined A. Fantis School. Since then, he has had the pleasure of watching his daughter grow up in the school. Mr. Tasoulas has spent nearly 20 years in education as a teacher and leader, earning degrees from Columbia and the University of California, Berkeley, along the way. His educational philosophy was largely shaped by his own experiences as a student and later work in special education. He has worked both in regular and special education settings, as well as helped to found two schools focused on performing arts in New Jersey and New York.