In fall 2006, former DJ, point guard and educator turned first-time principal James O’Brien opened a public high school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, where 1/3 of residents live below the poverty line and the graduation rate is 40%. With infectious optimism, O’Brien and his staff of eight undertook a new and unconventional approach––emphasizing strong individual support and inquiry-based instruction with a focus on arts and media. Initially, the buzz from the community was that this was a dream come true. But conflicts arose when old realities surfaced. Filmed over four years, The New Public follows the journey of students, parents and educators striving to reconcile idealism with reality and make a difference in the futures of young people whose lives are stark representations of our country’s education and opportunity gaps. Through the prism of one inner-city public school, we witness complexities faced by urban public schools and communities everywhere.

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