N.Y.U. President John Sexton: ‘We Need More Space’

IMG_3105Natalie Rinn John Sexton addresses a student.

John Sexton, the president of N.Y.U., addressed questions about the school’s considerable expansion plan at a Town Hall meeting earlier tonight. At the open forum for students, Dr. Sexton addressed a recent outpouring of community opposition, as demonstrated by a unanimous vote by Community Board 2 on Thursday disapproving of the proposed expansion near Washington Square Park.

“The community board vote did not surprise me,” he said, standing before a room filled with undergraduate and graduate students at the university’s Kimball Hall. “It would have been surprising if there had been a single dissent.”

He added, “You learn that there are a small minority of people that you can’t reach. They’ve gotta be what they are and they’re not going to be persuaded right or wrong.”

A recent Ph.D. graduate in comparative literature, Patrick Gallagher, pressed the president on being insensitive. “It sounds like what you’re saying is the community is always wrong. Has there ever been a time when you’ve come around to their point of view?”

“First of all, respectfully, I don’t think I said the community is always wrong,” Mr. Sexton responded. “The dialogue with the community has been fulsome for three years and 40 [community] meetings, and we’ve made changes in the plan based on things that were said.”
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(A Few) Protesters Picket Town Hall With N.Y.U. President

protestersNatalie Rinn

In a protest organized by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, a handful of representatives from the N.Y.U. Grad Student Organizing Committee distributed flyers outside of Kimball Hall at 246 Greene Street, where N.Y.U. President John Sexton was expected to hold a town hall with students at 4 p.m. The flyers, also signed by N.Y.U. Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, demanded that attendees of the meeting ask why Mr. Sexton was not respecting the group’s right to organize.

Check back here for an update from the town hall, where the subject of the university’s controversial expansion plan just might come up.

Update: N.Y.U. President John Sexton: ‘We Need More Space’

Teacher Rankings Revealed, and Here Are the East Village Ones

East Side Community SchoolMeredith Bennett-Smith

On Friday, the city’s Department of Education released data reports for roughly 18,000 teachers at public schools, grades 4-8. SchoolBook, the Times’ and WNYC’s education site, has posted the most recent data, based on students’ gains on state math and English exams in the 2009-10 school year. The site also posted career scores based on several years of data.

Below you’ll find just some of SchoolBook’s information about the East Village, indicating the percentage of teachers in each school that received a ranking of “above average” or “high” from the city. Click on a school’s name to find detailed information about each teacher for whom data was released, including the teacher’s ranking (on a percentile scale of 0-99) compared to similar teachers (note that the margins of error here vary widely and are sometimes quite high), the scores his or her students were expected to receive based on their demographics and past test performances, the scores the students actually received, and a score known as “value added” that gauges the difference between what was expected and how students performed. You can also read the teacher’s response whenever available.

Originally requested by The Times and other media organizations in 2010, the numbers were made public after the union, citing flaws in methodology and privacy concerns, unsuccessfully sued the city to prevent their release (the Department of Education now says it didn’t want to name teachers). Their controversial publication has sparked an outcry among educators such as Cara Cibener, a teacher at Tompkins Square Middle School who told The Wall Street Journal that the rankings were “completely misleading.” Parents and educators: read the data and tell us what you think – are they a fair representation of the East Village’s schools and teachers? Read more…

P.S. 63 William McKinley Hopes New Name Will Make It a S.T.A.R.

PS 63 as STAR AcademyJessica Bell

P.S. 63 no longer wants to be associated with President William McKinley. The East Village school, which serves students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, is seeking to change its name to P.S. 63 S.T.A.R. Academy.

Principal Darlene Despeignes said the current name, P.S. 63 William McKinley, no longer reflects the nature of the school, located on East Third Street between First Avenue and Avenue. Last year, she brought the issue to District 1’s Community Education Council, which told her should could start re-branding as the S.T.A.R. Academy.

“The name William McKinley doesn’t denote anything about our school culture, community or the families we serve,” said Ms. Despeignes, who took over the school four years ago. “We’re more progressive than we were in the past and we really want to show off who we are through our name.”
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Cooper Union Students Stage Walkout to Protest Possible Tuition (Updated With Video)

As if Cooper Union wasn’t dealing with enough bad p.r.: Today at 2 p.m., about 100 students from the school walked out of class and into Peter Cooper Park in protest of a potential implementation of tuition. Since 1905, the school, founded in 1859, has awarded merit-based scholarships to students so they can attend free of tuition charges, based on founder Peter Cooper’s philosophy that education should be as free as water and air. But on Monday, The Times reported that as a result of financial troubles, the school may start charging tuition to students that can afford it.

“Implementation of a tuition model here goes completely against the structure of the school,” said Joe Riley, 21, a junior in the School of Art and the organizer of the walkout. Read more…

A Montessori School on Avenue B? Now There Is One

Gold Material Montessori School 3 Chelsia Rose Marcius

Sean Eisele was hard-pressed to find a preschool for his daughter Taegan, 4, after Love A Lot shuttered in the wake of financial troubles in early October. While taking her on the subway to a Bright Horizons location, the East Village resident looked into options that would give Taegan the same one-on-one time she got at Love A Lot, and found the Gold Material Montessori School, which opened last month at 41 Avenue B. The timing couldn’t have been better.

“We needed a daycare and it was one of the few places that were around,” said Mr. Eisele. “It took her about a week to adjust, but it seems we’re in the right place now.”

Mr. Eisele was hopeful that his daughter would get close attention at Gold Material. The preschool currently has just eight students, and its co-founder, Maksim Kondrukevich, considers them precious. Read more…

DocuDrama: Troubled Preschool Shutters, Leaving Teachers and Parents Feeling Stiffed

IMG_0382Stephen Rex Brown The blinds are drawn at the preschool, which abruptly closed earlier this month.

When Devon Eisele took her 4-year-old daughter to Love A Lot preschool on Clinton Street on July 1 and Con Edison had cut the power, that was the last straw. While teachers did their best to improvise, taking the tykes to playgrounds and out for lunch, Ms. Eisele and her husband decided to withdraw their child from the financially struggling school.

As it turned out, they left at just the right time. Days later, the Clinton Street space closed, and the school was consolidated into the original location on Suffolk Street.

On October 5, that location abruptly closed, leaving parents scrambling to find a new preschool, and teachers fuming about months of unpaid wages. That day, the Department of Health revoked Love A Lot’s operating permit, citing “lack of an educational director, inability to provide documentation of staff medical records, and failure to screen staff,” according to a spokeswoman. Previously, the same location had been cited by city health inspectors for a variety of violations, including not having a staff member trained in CPR on site, lack of working fire and carbon monoxide alarms, and problems with hot and cold water — all of which were resolved, according to the spokeswoman.

The owner of Love A Lot, Olga Bosio, is named in two lawsuits, one from a former teacher seeking $6,500 in back wages, and another from former parents seeking $10,500 for tuition paid up front, as well as deposits for the school year. (According to Ms. Eisele, tuition at the school was around $2,000 a month.)
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Amid Headlock Allegations, Parents Complain About Disciplining at Girls Prep

IMG_8205Rachel Ohm

A new disciplinary system at Girls Prep Middle School has left many parents unhappy at the start of the school year.

Since the dismissal of founding principal Kimberly Morcate last March, the school has gone through administrative changes, including the hiring of an interim principal and then a new principal, as well as the normal coming and going of teachers. Some parents feel that a new disciplinary system, called the “demerit system,” has only made the changes harder on their children.

“There are a lot of things these kids are going through emotionally, and it has taken a toll on them, with the principal as well as other teachers leaving,” said Ayodele Carnegie, whose daughter is in the sixth grade. “It’s a lot to transition through. I feel like they are a little too strict on rules.” Read more…

At Preschool of the Arts, Yoga for Toddlers

Preschool of the ArtsLiv Buli

The 25 toddlers attending the new Preschool of the Arts in Cooper Union’s sleek new academic building aren’t just learning — they’re “exploring.” They don’t play with toys — they play with “heuristic tools.” And once a week, they do yoga.

The Jewish preschool originally opened on East Sixth Street in 1999, but quickly outgrew the location and found new digs in Chelsea four years later. “We have always been looking back to the neighborhood,” said director Sarah Rotenstreich of the school’s satellite location, which opened at 41 Cooper Square last month. “There is something so exciting about the East Village; the pulse, the creativity, the types of families.”

The Local visited on a recent Tuesday as an instructor gave morning yoga classes to each of the school’s three age groups. (In the case of toddlers, calling it yoga might be a bit of a stretch.) Read more…

On East Second, A British Private School Settles In

Hayley Roberts - WCLA Hayley Roberts of World Class Learning Academy teaches her kindergarteners about shapes during play time.

Every day before and after school, John Taylor, headmaster of World Class Learning Academy, stands outside, greeting parents and waving goodbye to children.

“I know it’s a bit old fashioned, but it’s still kind of nice,” he said.

It may be the only thing that’s old-fashioned about this new private school. After commandeering two-thirds of the old La Salle Academy building in 2010, the school “injected millions,” per Mr. Taylor, into renovating and modernizing the 75-year-old building at 44 East Second Street. On Sept. 6, it opened its doors to 32 students between pre-kindergarten and fourth grade. The bulletin boards in hallways and classrooms are already filled with their artwork and projects. Read more…

East Village School Progess Report: Some Good, Some Bad, But No Ugly


Last week, as SchoolBook reported, the Department of Education issued its annual Progress Report for grade schools and middle schools (high school results will be issued next month). Due in part to changes in grading methods, double the number of schools — 10 percent — received failing grades of Ds and Fs. In the East Village, however, many schools held steady or raised their grades from last year, with the majority receiving Bs or Cs. Read more…

In Class With Professor James Franco

City Room sits in on a film class taught by the star of “127 Hours” and “Milk” at NYU, and the first-time professor’s curriculum is as avant garde as one would expect. Soon the nine graduate students will travel to Detroit to shoot a collaborative film with the themes of “rejuvenation and memory.” Of course, the class has its fair share of perks, too. The students’ films will likely get attention from film festivals, and then there’s just the thrill of spending time with Mr. Franco. “I got over being star-struck,” one student said. “But handsome, yes, he is handsome.”

A Patron Saint of Libraries Brings Books to St. Brigid School

Verne Oliver and studentRachel Ohm Verne Oliver talks to a student in the new St. Brigid School library.

For years, St. Brigid School on Seventh Street and Avenue B didn’t have a library. Books were spread out across classrooms and strewn on shelves in the faculty room. Then Verne Oliver came to visit. With the help of the Gilder Foundation, a private philanthropy, the former teacher has spent her retirement remodeling and building libraries at Catholic schools across the city. She has completed over 100 – her latest, at St. Brigid, will host its first class on Monday. Read more…

On Opening Day, SchoolBook Charts Progress of East Village Schools

Mosaic made by children on front door of East Village Community School, East 12th Street.Eastvillagedenizen

To coincide with back-to-school day, The Times and WNYC have launched their new SchoolBook site, which in addition to reporting news about New York City schools, encourages parents, teachers, and students to share their own. Not only can you watch as Rachel Ohm (whose “Street Style” videos you know and love) asks parents to show off their back-to-school shopping bags, but you can compare rankings and statistics for schools in the 10003 and 10009 zip codes. The news coming out of 10009 isn’t particularly good: Of 11 public schools listed, only one (Tompkins Square Middle School) boasts an above-average performance rating, and only two scored As (compared to six Cs) on their 2010 Progress Reports. For more about what these numbers mean, and for the latest education news from all over the city, head over to SchoolBook.

Felipe Baeza: An Artist and Activist Living Without Papers

In the bars and restaurants of the East Village, immigrant workers, many undocumented, toil behind the scenes cooking food, waiting tables, and doing whatever else they can to keep the nightlife abuzz. Felipe Baeza is one of them. He serves food and drinks in a hopping East Village restaurant. For Mr. Baeza, 24, the job was to be a mere stepping stone into an exciting art career, which was to begin three years ago when he graduated with a degree in art from The Cooper Union.

But Mr. Baeza, who as a young boy left Mexico for the United States, doesn’t have a work visa or Social Security number, so he cannot legally work in the U.S. Under current federal law, the jobs he studied to perform are not available to him because of his status.

As Mr. Baeza looks from beyond a bar lined with moist beer bottles and cocktail glasses, he sees his classmates finding success in the art world, at home and abroad. In a word, he is frustrated.

“My options are very limited,” he said. “I couldn’t work in a print shop. I couldn’t even assist an artist.”
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Free Summer Lunches Underway

IMG_1074Meghan Keneally Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

The summer lunch program that provides free meals to children throughout the city has six distribution locations in the East Village including local pools, schools, and low income housing developments.

And even though the number of sites was cut dramatically since last year, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said that he hopes to distribute more meals than ever for students this summer.

“Our goal is to get to where the children are,” Mr. Walcott said at a news conference Wednesday morning at P.S. 20 Anna Silver on Essex Street

While budgeting and funding clearly were in mind, Mr. Walcott said that the change — from 478 distribution sites last summer to 372 this summer — was more a revaluation of resources than a cut and that all children are within a five to seven block walk of a distribution location.

“We did mapping. We took a look at those sites that are near there, and for every site that may not be in existence right now from last year, there is a school or some type of site available to them that’s near that particular location,” Mr. Walcott said Wednesday morning.
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A School’s Closing Creates Uncertainty

RGA ClassroomLaura E. Lee An empty classroom at Ross Global Academy.

With the end of the school year just around the corner, students at Ross Global Academy are eagerly awaiting the start of summer. But some families face uncertain futures when the academy permanently closes its doors at the end of the month.

The New York City Department of Education announced the closure the charter school on East 11th Street at First Avenue in December, citing the reports of the school’s low test scores and high teacher turnover.

With the announcement, parents and staff fought to keep the school open. The school’s founder, multimillionaire Courtney Sale Ross, sent a letter to the Department of Education asserting that the Department did not follow proper procedures and requesting a renewal. Chancellor Joel Klein denied the request.

Richard Burke, executive director of the school, said that the Department has promised to place everyone by the end of the month. But some parents, still bitter about the circumstances of the closure, are angry about the reassignment process.

“We’re displaced,” said Noemi Hernandez, president of the academy’s Parent-Teacher Association. Ms. Hernandez said that although she lives in the neighborhood, she cannot register her two children at local schools without Department of Education approval.
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A New Principal for Girls Prep

Kaitlin SeaverCourtesy of Girls Prep Kaitlin Seaver.

Girl Prep Middle School has new principal.

Kaitlin Seaver, a veteran educator who’s helped nearly two dozen city schools develop academic curricula, was introduced last week as the school’s new principal. Girls Prep Middle had been without a permanent principal since February when Kimberly Morcate was dismissed amid declining test scores at the school.

Ms. Seaver joins Girls Prep Middle after serving as the Department of Education’s Lead Senior Instructional Coach where she worked with 21 city middle schools to create Common Core State Standards, which she described as a “consistent, clear, understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.”

Before joining the Department of Education, Ms. Seaver worked with Knowledge is Power Charter Schools as a sixth grade English teacher, a dean of students, and as a district middle school assistant principal.

She said that she believed a school mission is “to empower all students to become critical thinkers and strong leaders.”

“I am more than confident that we will fulfill this mission together,” said Ms. Seaver, who will begin work in July.

Ms. Seaver’s appointment comes after a two-year stretch in which the school has faced over-crowding issues, a move to a new location and a significant drop in its test scores.

Ian Rowe, one of the acting principal’s at the school, welcomed Ms. Seaver to the school.

“She will lead our Middle School to ensure our students are fully equipped to be accepted into- and thrive- in high-performing public and private high schools,” he said.

“It’s definitely a bitter sweet moment,” said Hilda Salazar, mother of a fifth grader. “We lost Ms. Morcate, but I’m excited to see what she” – Ms. Seaver – “will do.”

Girl’s Prep Gets a New Home

East Side Community High SchoolRachel Ohm The building that houses East Side Community School on 11th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A will also become the new home of Girl’s Prep Middle School in the fall.

For the past year, Girl’s Prep, an all-girls charter school in the East Village has been in search of a new home for its growing middle school.

Last week, school officials received approval from the Department of Education to move into a space at the East Side Community School building on 11th Street and First Avenue. The middle school, which currently serves students in grades five and six only, will be able to re-locate in the fall and eventually expand to teach seventh and eighth graders.

“It’s such a relief to know we have a permanent, free public school space,” said Ian Rowe, the school’s interim principal. “Our parents have been through a roller coaster these last two years.”

Girl’s Prep is a kindergarten through sixth grade school that opened at 442 Houston Street in 2005 as an elementary school. Last year, when it expanded to grades five and six, the new middle school moved to a temporary location that it rented at 51 Astor Place. That building is set to be demolished later this year, after the charter’s lease expires June 30.
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East Village Teachers, Admins Stay Cool

PS 19Hadas Goshen

Like a dusty chalkboard, the future of East Village teachers has been wiped over and rewritten several times in the weeks following Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed budget cuts, which could lead to 4,600 teacher lay-offs across Manhattan and affect East Village schools disproportionately. As politicians debate which policies will actually take shape, the district’s education officials remain calm, and say political pandering is just another lesson in history.

“We don’t want to overreact to the mayor’s scare tactics. We’re waiting to see what position to take—we don’t want to be manipulated,” said Lisa Donlan, president of District 1’s Community Education Council.

Last week was a turbulent one for the district’s education officials. On Monday, a list revealing the city’s proposed teacher lay-offs under the long-standing “last in, first out” law showed an average of 10 percent of Lower East Side and East Village school teachers would be fired based on their recent hire status, while more senior teaching positions across districts remained safe.

But by Tuesday’s close, the State Senate had voted 32-27 to amend the legislation, concerned by the inordinate number of teacher lay-offs across New York, particularly at newer schools or those with greener staffs—like those in the East Village.

One such school, P.S. 19 Asher Levy Elementary School, would lose city funding for nine out of its 32 teachers (28 percent) under the “last in, first out” law, while similar schools with seasoned staffs would lose none. Read more…