Maggie Siena

[media-credit name="Photo by Aline Reynolds" align="alignleft" width="216"][/media-credit]

Maggie Siena

BY ALINE REYNOLDS  |  Maggie Siena, principal of P.S. 150 since 2005, will be taking the helm of the Peck Slip elementary school starting next year, when the school’s first kindergarten class will incubate at Tweed Courthouse. Siena discusses her new job, the future school’s curriculum and the classroom space at Tweed.  

What about your new job are you most looking forward to?
There’s something so delicious and exciting about being able to build each grade at a time. I’m excited about the prospect of spending a whole year just thinking about what five-year-olds need, and moving into thinking about how we build on what the kids need in first grade.

How did you become principal of the Peck Slip School?
I applied to start a new school — it’s something I wanted to do in my educational career. I was notified right about the time the announcement was made at Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s education task force meeting.

What will the school’s curriculum focus on, and why?
I want to look at including sustainability learning — meaning, learning about how humans interact with the environment. I think it’s important to build in our growing citizens an awareness of humans’ impact on the world and emphasize the ways in which we can impact it positively. From zoos to nature books to science museums, kids are inundated with bad news: almost every book about animals ends with how they’re going extinct or how their environment is threatened.

Do you have past experience working in Tweed Courthouse?
Yes. I worked with Anna Switzer, former principal of P.S. 234, in founding City Hall Academy, a professional development lab housed in Tweed, where we saw 3rd, 4th, and 7th graders. It had an intensive, integrative, social studies curriculum, and we’d have regular professional development meetings with visiting teachers from other public schools all over the city. It was really exciting. We did that for a year-and-a-half.

Some Downtown parents fear that Tweed’s school space isn’t suitable for their children’s education, particularly since it lacks facilities such as a gymnasium and an auditorium. What are your thoughts on that?
I disagree. It’s an amazing and very rich and appealing learning environment. I’m very excited to show parents around — I think it’ll be very reassuring. There is something about the design and the grandeur of the space that dignifies the learning experience. I run a small school without a lot of facilities. P.S. 150 doesn’t have an auditorium or a cafeteria, for example. We don’t have a gym, either, but we’ve been able to have a very successful track team: last year, just two years into the program, the kids won the Manhattan South division of the city-sponsored track championship.

Do you have a particular strategy in mind to maximize the space?
The classrooms are enormous, and the spaces are quite flexible, so it’s not going to take a lot of work. But we can be creative. The classrooms will serve as good rooms for movement, such as dancing and other gross motor activities. The kids will also be able to run outside in City Hall Park; and when it’s raining, they can run on the stairs inside Tweed.

What will you miss most about P.S. 150?
I’ll miss the intimacy there. I’ve gotten to know my students so well and have followed their growth and progress from kindergarten through 5th grade. It’s a very nurturing environment, with committed parents, caregivers and staff members.

Will you be involved the hiring of a new principal for P.S. 150? Are there any candidates thus far that you know of?
I’m sure I’ll have a voice in helping to select the best person for the school. There’s no single person who looks like the next principal, but there are a lot of wonderful educators who are ready for a principalship, and I’m sure we’ll be beginning to hear from lots of them.

Do you have a New Year’s resolution?
No. I don’t usually have one. The only one I was ever successful with was baking a different batch of cookies every single week: I got through April, which I thought was pretty good, and I got to be a much better baker that year!

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