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By Gwynne Hogan

For years, M.S. 53 in Far Rockaway has had a notorious reputation throughout the community as “a madhouse.” One teacher remembers bulletin boards being set on fire and having to barricade her classroom with desks in order to protect her students from other kids who wanted to fight them.

To begin to tame the chaos, a discipline-driven principal started doling out suspensions and generated what some teachers remember as a culture of fear.

But starting in 2011, a new principal named Shawn Rux has managed to turn the school around. Suspensions dropped from 280 in 2010 to fewer than 40 last year. The school’s letter grade climbed from an F to a B. Violent incidents dropped.

Gwynne Hogan gives us a glimpse inside the walls of M.S. 53 for a look at how Rux has managed turn things around.