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Fighting a war of a different kind

The world is full of many types of heroes. My job as a reporter is rich because it allows me to meet a lot of them.

Getting to know Frank Mickens, principal of Boys and Girls High School, was one such pleasure.

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Mr. Mickens is a legend in New York City. He took over a high school known as one of the worst in the country and turned it into the pride of a neighborhood.

So when he told me he was self-publishing a book called "My Way" telling how he did it, I was eager to read his story.

I expected a how-to book. But what I discovered instead was a love story: the tale of a man who becomes father to thousands of children and then spends his life bettering theirs.

There is plenty of active heroism in Mickens' story. At different times his sense of duty led him to chase armed drug dealers, get beaten by an angry parent, and physically bar unqualified teachers from the door of his school.

But a lot of quieter heroism was involved as well. Despite accolades today, there were also lonely times when Mickens won no popularity contests. Early in his tenure parents and students opposed his tough rules. The New York Civil Liberties Union wanted to sue him and the Board of Ed didn't always like him much either.

Then there are the 70-hour work weeks - another form of heroism.

It's a story that would make a good read under any circumstances. But this past week, with war on every TV screen, it was particularly inspiring to think about a different kind of warfare - and to savor the tale of a spectacular victory won on the streets of a city much closer than Baghdad.

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To order "My Way," e-mail: frank_n_mickens@yahoo.com .