It was a tale of two gatherings on Tuesday, June 8 for parents of P.S. 14 students. Outside in the schoolyard, upwards of 150 parents and children ate pizza and cake, drank lemonade and soda, and danced the night away as part of the school’s parent appreciation event, “Celebration Under the Stars.”
But at the same time, over at Bronxonia Yacht Club on Ellsworth Avenue, 65 aggravated parents were skipping the party to cry out against the school’s 33-year-old principal, Jason Kovac. The group feels that the principal is inaccessible and has taken the school in a negative direction. At the meeting, they managed to bring out three former faculty members of the school to speak out against Kovac’s methods. Posters inside the yacht club meeting room said “Hey Kovac! Where have all our teachers gone? Who is next?” and, “Enough is enough! We want our school back! DOE, stop Kovering up for Kovac!”
It was the day before, on Monday, June 7, that the concerned parents began their process by passing out flyers in front of the schoolyard as school let out. Benny Signore, whose daughter Angelina is in the fourth grade, led the charge along with Vinny Gennarelli, another dad.
“There are so many things going wrong,” said Signore as he approached parents to invite them to the meeting. “He talks down to the parents. He has his secretary do all the talking for him. There’s a huge turnover of teachers.”
Both men also noted that the assistant principal is out on an extended medical leave, while the nurse that many knew and loved has been removed, and no one can find out why.
“The biggest problem is the parent coordinator,” remarked Gennarelli. “She’s supposed to speak for us, but she’s not doing her role as a parent coordinator. She’s like his best friend, she doesn’t listen to our comments.”
The flyers they touted pointed out that the school administrators got wind of their planned meeting and blatantly created an alternative eventat the last minute in order to pull parents away from the protest meeting and distract them with a party. The original school calendar that is sent to homes was stapled to their flyer, and clearly showed no listing of the parent celebration.
One mother also announced, “This is a man who has never been a teacher, doesn’t have an education background.” As it turns out, Kovac has a master’s degree in elementary education from Mercy College and taught elementary school at P.S. 204 in the Bronx for four years. Kovac himself said that he could not respond to the actions of those outside, but he did happily acknowledge that indeed, he created the parent celebration as a direct response to the emergency meeting. “They want to have a big negative event, sure, of course I’m going to hold something positive,” he said.
At the yacht club meeting on June 8, the first to address the crowd was Signore, but the most emotional, outraged of the group was Sylvia Ripps, who had taught 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade special education at P.S. 14 for five years. Ripps said that she resigned from the school this past March because she had been “thrown into a panic attack after he [Kovac] sent me a threatening letter because I missed eight days being out sick in November.” Ripps said that she was essentially forced out. “I resigned because it got to a point where his harrassing behavior on a daily basis became too much. Now, instead of teachers banging the door to get jobs there, they can’t leave quick enough.”
William Oliveri told the crowd that his 2nd-grader Anthony was kicked in the groin by another student and ended up in the ER at Jacobi, but no one called to notify Oliveri that his son had been hurt. “I only found out because I happened to go to the school to pick him up and he was waiting in the nurse’s office, bleeding from the groin,” he said. “I went to ask the principal about it and instead he ignored my demands and tried to invite me to the party.”
But anti-principal parents were not the only people there. Members of the PTA who support the principal showed up as well, and the meeting became heated and unorganized. “This is so stupid,” said Diane Colamarino, vice president of the PTA. “They’re not getting their way, but even when we give them answers, it’s not the answers they want so they say we’re ‘on his side.’ But that’s not what we do, we mediate, we’re in the middle.”
Cathy Panarese, the PTA secretary, concurred that they don’t take sides, but revealed that she and Colamarino do like the principal. And they love the parent coordinator, Evelyn Pereira-DeStefano.
For now, only time will tell whether Kovac remains at the school unbothered, or if the concerned parents find an open ear in the weeks to come.