East Rock, Jepson Get New Principals
by Melissa Bailey | Aug 7, 2012 11:45 am
Posted to: Schools
A former Hooker School administrator is returning to East Rock to take over Hooker’s “stepchild,” East Rock Community Magnet School, as it prepares for an attempted revival in a new building.
At a special meeting Monday night, the school board appointed Margaret “Peggy” Pelley as the school’s new principal.
Pelley is transferring from Benjamin Jepson Interdistrict Magnet School, where she served as principal for the past seven years. Her trusted deputy, Lesley Stancarone, was promoted from assistant principal to principal of Jepson at a salary of $131,722.
Schools Superintendent Reginald Mayo said he asked Pelley to transfer to East Rock to bring some experienced leadership to that school. Pelley replaces Michael Conte, who retired. She’ll make a salary of $132,930.
Pelley arrives just as parents are trying to build momentum for East Rock’s magnet school. The magnet is often seen as the stepsister of the Worthington Hooker School, which is home to many international and Yale-affiliated families. Parents have been known to buy homes, camp out overnight, and stake out the principal’s office just to get into Hooker, while ignoring the magnet school just a few blocks away.
In other news Monday, three assistant principals were named: Laurian Kehoe at Bishop Woods, Stephanie Paris-Cooper at Engineering & Science University Magnet School, and Mary Derwin at Davis Street School. Elaine Parsons became the district’s supervisor of language arts and reading.
Pelley will steer East Rock as the school returns from a Hamden swing space into a rebuilt home on Nash Street. As one of the final projects in the mayor’s $1.5 billion school construction initiative, the district tore down the concrete bunker that housed the East Rock school and began to build a smaller, more light-filled replacement on the same site at 133 Nash St. The new $45 million school was designed by Newman Architects.
Construction is set to be complete in time for kids to return to the school in January 2013, according to Chief Operating Officer Will Clark.
As part of a new, more rigorous process of selecting school leaders, parents and teachers sat in on the interviews with candidates for new leaders.
Daisy Gonzalez, president of East Rock’s PTO, said she sat in on interviews with four candidates. Her top pick, who was bilingual, got chosen for John C. Daniels School. The district later beckoned the panel back for a fifth interview, this one with Pelley. Gonzalez said the panel of parents and teachers gave her a good recommendation.
“She came so prepared to the meeting, I actually was so impressed by her,” Gonzalez said.
East Rock kids get preference in the magnet lottery at the school, but interest is low: Enrollment is virtually guaranteed for neighborhood kids, yet only 15 percent of students there hail from East Rock, according to parent Britt Anderson, who has been been rallying neighborhood parents to invest in the school.
Her efforts have attracted a handful of new parents, such as Bishop Street’s Yury Maciel-Andrews. Maciel-Andrews transferred her 3rd-grader to East Rock last March, in part so he would be closer to home, and in part so she could become part of the movement to revive the school.
“I knew there was parents in East Rock fighting for the school,” she said. “Let me get on the bandwagon now.”
Maciel-Andrews and Gonzalez (pictured) are both hoping to build on the momentum of the new building to improve the school.
“There was a time when the school had a bad reputation,” Gonzalez said. “And the building didn’t help any.” She credited Principal Michael Conte with “turning the building around.”
The school is rated in the middle-performing Tier II according to the district’s rankings. On a survey last school year, 87 percent of parents and 86 percent of teachers said they would recommend it to their peers.
Pelley starts work in her new post Tuesday. She started out at the New Haven Public Schools 27 years ago as a teacher at West Hills School on Valley Street. She taught at Hooker then served as assistant principal there for two years before moving on to Jepson.
Meanwhile, at Jepson, Stancarone (pictured) will return to a familiar role: She led Jepson from September to April of last school year, when Pelley was out on medical leave due to an injury. She also served as acting principal for a significant portion of the prior year.
Stancarone, who’s 44, attended Davis Street school growing up before heading to Hamden High. She started out teaching at Truman Street School before becoming a reading coach and rising up to become assistant principal at Jepson.
Stancarone, who now lives in Guilford, showed up to the board meeting with her mother, Sheila Troppe, who taught for the district for 37 years. Troppe snapped photos with a Nikon DSLR then chatted with Superintendent Mayo.
“I sent you my pride and joy,” said Troppe. She pointed to her granddaughter in the back of the room, and pledged to send another generation to teach at city schools.