New Principals Picked For Martinez, Davis St.

Melissa Bailey PhotoTen years after helping launch John S. Martinez School, Sequella Coleman is moving across town and replacing a star principal at one of the city’s highest performing K-8 schools.

The school board Thursday night tapped Coleman (pictured) to lead the Davis Street Arts and Academics School. She replaces longtime principal Lola Nathan, who is retiring.

The board named Myrna Montalvo, leader of the Helene Grant Head Start program, to take Coleman’s place as Martinez principal.

The appointments mean the school district has now filled all of its principal vacancies as of the first day of summer vacation, Superintendent Garth Harries announced. That’s a lot sooner than in some previous years: In 2011, the city’s largest high school didn’t get a principal until Aug. 10; in 2010, Judy Puglisi got just six weeks to prepare to lead Metropolitan Business Academy.

The school board also named two assistant principals Thursday: Jenny Clarino at Lincoln-Bassett School and Monique Brunson at Brennan/Rogers. That leaves six vacant assistant principal jobs, according to Harries.

Coleman was one of six finalists to lead Davis Street, a pre-K to 8 magnet school in Westville. Under Nathan’s 20 years of leadership, the school rose to be one of the city’s highest-performing. Nathan spotted talent in teacher’s aides and parents and grew a strong team that made headlines for eliminating the achievement gap between African-American New Haveners and their suburban peers. Nathan is retiring this July after a 46-year career with the school district.

Coleman’s own career in the school system spans four superintendents. After moving here from Ohio at the age of 13, she attended New Haven schools and graduated from Hillhouse High in 1975. She got her start in the school district as an executive assistant to John Dow, the city’s first black superintendent. She later returned to the school district as a 6th-grade teacher at Fair Haven School. She led Brennan-Rogers School when its new buildings opened in 1998; in 2004 she became the founding principal of John S. Martinez School in Fair Haven. She has 21 years’ experience as an educator, according to the schools budget.

Asked about her plans for the Davis Street school, she said she plans to work with parents and “continue the success” that the school has enjoyed.

“I’m always up for a new challenge,” she said.

Coleman’s replacement at Martinez, Montalvo, noted that she will step into a school that has had the same leader for 10 years.

“I ask myself, how will I fill those shoes?” Montalvo said.

“I will fill those shoes with my staff.” She made a point to call her assistant principal, Luis Menacho, to stand beside her. She vowed to work “together as a team.”

Brunson (pictured) has been leading Edgewood School since January, when the principal left abruptly in the middle of the year to take a job in Branford.

Brunson “served admirably, by all accounts, but made the personal decision that she would like to return to an AP [assistant principal] role in a different environment,” Harries wrote in a personnel update.

Brunson said she learned a lot during her six-month principal stint. At Brennan/Rogers School, she will work under Gail DeBlasio .

Shanta Smith, an assistant principal at an elementary school in Clinton, is taking over Edgewood School.

Clarino (pictured during the Pledge of Allegiance) will take on a big challenge: to help Lincoln-Bassett School lift out of a chapter of poor instruction, high truancy and adult infighting. The school is replacing its principal of one year as part of a state-funded turnaround effort through the Commissioner’s Network. Clarino was chosen by the school’s incoming principal, Janet Brown-Clayton, and a “turnaround committee” of school staff, a parent, and city and state officials.

Clarino was one of the first teachers to enroll in a new training program for aspiring principals run jointly by the New Haven Public Schools and the Achievement First charter school network. She spent half a year at Amistad Academy and another half at Davis Street. After the training program, she didn’t land a full-fledged administrator job right away. She spent a year as a teacher doing an administrative internship at Quinnipiac School. This year, she had a baby and then worked at Barnard Environmental Studies Magnet School.

“I have waited for this moment,” she said upon landing the assistant principal post. “I look forward to the hard work ahead.”

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posted by: Mary Brown on June 28, 2014  7:54am

That is great that Principals will have some time to transition to their new buildings. Hopefully the Assistant principals will get time to work with their new principals as well. It shouldn’t happen right before the next school year begins!

posted by: ElmCityVoice on June 29, 2014  7:01pm

I don’t remember being asked to say the pledge of allegiance at a BOE meeting. When did this happen? Is it the same for all city meetings?