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Jenny Bonnet began last month as the interim acting principal of P.S. 150, Tribeca Learning Center. Her goal is to permanently replace Maggie Siena once Seina takes the helm at the new Peck Slip School starting next fall. Bonnet discusses her affinity for P.S. 150, her experience in the city public school system and school overcrowding Downtown.
BY Aline Reynolds | Which other public schools have you worked at?
For nine years, I was an academic director of a school called the Special Music School on W. 67th Street. I left there a couple of years ago to work as an assistant principal for P.S. 199, a bigger school on W. 70th Street. Then I had the opportunity to become an assistant principal at the AmPark Neighborhood School in Van Cortlandt Village in the Bronx, near to where I live.
What drew you to P.S. 150?
I realized that it was time for me go and take the reins somewhere. I wanted to have my own vision. So when this opportunity arose, I met with the superintendent, we got along really well, and it just seemed like it was a really good fit.
This school year, P.S. 150 received a ‘C’ on its progress report and many say you have big shoes to fill following the leadership of Maggie Siena. What game plan do you have in mind to improve the curriculum and student performance?
I know this past year wasn’t great for P.S. 150. It’s very difficult to run a school that’s one class per grade, especially when you’re dealing with progress reports and testing, because you have such a small population. My goal for next year is to really start looking at doing more differentiation in the school. I want to work on professional development to help teachers meet the needs of the kids, so we’ll really be taking a look at these state tests and then do an item analysis, to figure out where we need to look into small group instruction and decide which kids need what type of instruction.
Give us a refresher on P.S. 150. How and when did it start?
It started in 1988 as the early childhood center with grades pre-k to two. It merged in 2001 with a school called Bridges. I guess at that point, they just decided to change the name to Tribeca Learning Center. It’s a choice school, so it’s different than a zoned school in that it’s open to families of 28 Lower Manhattan kindergarteners who come and apply, and children are chosen vis-à-vis a lottery. Like zoned schools, the first priority goes to sibling kids in the Downtown area. There’s about 40 children on our waitlist right now. The difference with our waitlist is, some of the kids may have already gotten into their zoned schools.
What are your thoughts on the overcrowding situation at the Downtown schools? What needs to be done to rectify the situation?
It’s just a matter, I guess, of opening new schools, like they’re doing with the Peck Slip School. But it also seemed like every year in District Three, when there were waitlists for kindergarten, they always seemed to resolve themselves by September because of parents moving or kids getting into gifted-and-talented programs or deciding to go to private schools. I guess it’s the same situation in District Two — we’re going to have to see what happens. Eventually, the Peck Slip School is going to grow to four or five kindergarten classes. In a year or two, that’d alleviate the problem, but it clearly doesn’t alleviate the problem for next year. I guess it’s just something the D.O.E. has to look into further.
Do you have a favorite Downtown hang-out?
I have a few, actually. It’s going to sound silly and celebrity-like, but I’ve been going to Nobu in Tribeca, on Franklin and Hudson Streets, for years since it opened, even before I was working down there. I have also had dinner at Odeon. I’m a real food person, but I really haven’t had too much time to enjoy the restaurants after work. I love the neighborhood and the artsy feel, which is why I’m looking forward to the Taste of Tribeca. It’s such a wonderful fundraiser for the local schools!