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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.”

Parents Protest Principal’s Dismissal

Current ResidenceDayna Clark Some parents at Girls Prep Middle School are upset at the abrupt dismissal of the school’s principal last month.

After the abrupt dismissal last month of the principal at Girls Prep middle school, a group of parents have begun mobilizing a campaign for her re-instatement.

The school’s board of directors voted last month to remove the principal, Kimberly Morcate, after the school’s scores on the city-wide progress report fell from the 82nd percentile to the 13th percentile.

Board members did not say that Ms. Morcate’s dismissal was linked to progress report scores.

“We will not discuss the circumstances surrounding Ms. Morcate’s termination out of respect to her,” one board member, Eric Grannis, said at an emotional board meeting Tuesday night.

Nevertheless, many parents said that they were upset about the move and the potential disruption to the school’s students because it was made in the middle of the school year. Ms. Morcate’s last day at the school was Feb. 18.

“You rocked our world and we want some answers,” one parent, Harley Sanchez, 27, told the board at Tuesday’s meeting. She has a 10-year-old daughter at Girls Prep, a charter school, which is now temporarily housed on Astor Place.

Ms. Sanchez and other parents have started to circulate an online petition on behalf of Ms. Morcate, who was very popular among parents. The petition says, “This termination came with no explanation or consideration of the negative impact that this would have on the Girls Prep family.”
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Common Traits at Successful Schools

8th Grade Students, Tompkins Square Middle School Andre Tartar A group of eighth grade students at Tompkins Square Middle School, one of two schools in the East Village to receive “A” grades on a recent evaluation of city schools. Students attributed the school’s success to strong bonds with the faculty. “We are like a family,” said one eighth grader.

The halls of Tompkins Square Middle School fill with children headed to their next classes. The silver-haired dean of community affairs, Devan Aptekar, warns a visitor to get ready for some noise. But it never really comes. Instead of hollering and ricocheting off the walls, students chat with each other using their inside voices. A few even wave hello to Mr. Aptekar as they pass. Nearby, a math teacher jokes with a student and asks him to answer a question before he can enter the class: “What is negative fourteen squared?” Clearly, something is going right here.

In the wake of the recent progress reports on which East Village schools performed poorly, The Local decided to ask the two schools awarded “A” grades, Tompkins Square Middle School and East Side Community School, about the ingredients of their success.
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Surprise at the Report on Area Schools

Kim Davis PortraitKim Davis.

I moved to the East Village – in fact to Alphabet City, as it was then called – when my daughter was a year old. All her schooling has been here (she’s in middle school now) and as a parent I’ve been happy with every bit of it. I share the surprise expressed by some residents in The Local’s report Monday. I just don’t recognize my daughter’s school in the Department of Education’s findings.

East Village education began for her at the Emmanuel Day Care center on Sixth Street, with its smart, friendly and in some cases very long-serving staff. I was staggered by the Center’s ambition, watching them introduce pre-schoolers not only to reading and writing, but sophisticated math and science topics.

I had always assumed she would progress from there to P.S. 364, a nearby public school. Her mother had ideas about a private Catholic education. Thankfully we never had to debate it. One day, browsing among the stalls at the Loisaida street fair, we came across flyers for an all-girl charter school, not yet open. At the time I had no idea what a charter school was, although I did notice that it was free. I think we all know about charter schools now, and the debates about sharing space with city schools, about non-unionized teaching staff, and the lottery admission system – but that’s another story.

Anyway, that’s where my daughter went – Girls Prep on East Houston – and she’s been happy and successful there ever since. I read the report card with amazement. A and B for environment and student performance, a C score overall, but F for student progress. As a parent, I shrug my shoulders. (Full disclosure: her mother is employed by the school as a teaching assistant; she’s usually more critical of it than I am.)

The report card doesn’t really explain how this was measured. My daughter and her sharp, alert, articulate friends are making plenty of progress as far as I can see. It just makes me nervous for the school and the staff. Monitoring school performance is a great idea. Clarity and transparency in the reporting could be improved.

For what it’s worth, P.S. 364 got an overall D.

Kim Davis is the community editor of The Local East Village.

Tell us how you feel about the latest evaluations of neighborhood schools.

Report: Neighborhood Schools Lag

P3300740Timothy J. Stenovec The East Village Community School and the Children’s Workshop School share a building on East 12th Street and both earned a C grade for academic performance.

Report cards are out for public schools in neighborhoods across the city and the East Village is getting the kind of grades that would cause just about any parent concern.

Of the 15 neighborhood elementary and middle schools graded as part of the city’s annual progress report, which was released on Sept. 30, only four were awarded A’s or B’s. Ten schools received C’s, and one earned a D. The scores dropped significantly compared to last year, when every East Village K-8 school earned at least an A or a B.

Failing grades for schools come with repercussions. Schools that receive low grades can face closure, and the principals of low performing schools can be fired.

Parents dropping their children off at the East Village Community School and the Children’s Workshop School recently were surprised to learn about that their schools were not making the grade.
 Both schools, which share a building on East 12th Street, got C’s this year, although the East Village Community School got D’s in “student progress” and “student performance,” two of the sub-categories that contribute to the overall grade.
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