The same P.S. 14 parent group that packed the house at Bronxonia Yacht Club last Tuesday, June 7, to hold an emergency meeting about the school’s principal, banned together again on Friday, June 10 to take their fight to the school yard. But this time, only about a fifth of the original group showed up.
“There were a lot more parents at the meeting,” said disappointed grandmother Diane Schiaffo, whose grandchildren are in kindergarten and 5th grade. “But a lot of people are working, they couldn’t be here today.”
Indeed, around twelve parents came to the school at dismissal time on June 10 and marched around with signs. At the large meeting a few nights earlier, 65 parents were on hand. The group encountered another problem, in addition to low turnout: the school had anticipated their rally, and responded by changing student pick-up locations.
“Today only, dismissals” read a large poster on the school’s fence that went on to state that the school would be releasing kindergarteners at the back school yard, 1st and 2nd graders at the main entrance, 3rd graders at the staff parking lot, and 4th and 5th graders out the custodial exit. Normally, the entire school gets let out through the back school yard.
The apparent goal of switching dismissal locations was to divide the protesting group, and it worked, according to Judy Gennarelli, one of the leaders of the group that wants 33-year-old principal Jason Kovac removed.
“The whole changing of dismissal locations kind of screwed us up,” she said. “Now you’ve got some parents with their kids out front at the entrance, some getting their kids at the back.”
Many parents were not pleased with the school’s surprise tactic. If you ask me, this is unsafe having them let out right here on Bruckner,” said Jennifer Castro, another mother who is furious with the way the school is being run.
Ben Signore agreed: “Isn’t it safer to let your kid out to his parent and let the parent worry about getting home from the school? They just don’t want the kids to come out and see all the parents with these signs we have.”
But kids did see the parents, and their signs. In many cases, parents picked up their child and then handed him or her a sign to hold.
Brendan Ortiz touted one that said, “Bully, bully, Kovac you’re a bully!” His mother said that she felt fine with his holding a sign, because it was his choice. “He picked his own sign,” she said. “I read him the options and he chose one by himself.”
Michelle Mondello, a parent, was unimpressed by the rally. “You got 582 kids at this school,” she noted, “so where are all the angry parents we keep hearing about? They didn’t get many for this rally, and that says something.”
Yet over by the back school yard, sitting in a parked car, a former teacher watched the drama unfold. Noelle Gold taught 4th grade for nine months at P.S. 14 and admitted that “I absolutely liked [Kovac] at first.”
She said that eventually, however, he brought her into his office and told her that he didn’t like who she was having lunch with.
“That was it,” she reflected. “I was on his hit list. In May, he accused me of stealing school supplies, and I received a letter saying I had a disciplinary summons for September.”
Gold said the issue is not about people resenting a young principal.
“Ageism definitely exists, but if you’re young and have a proven background of leadership, I’m fine with that,” she said. “But he doesn’t have it.”
Through it all, Kovac stood outside the main entrance on Bruckner Boulevard and said goodbye to students as picketing protesters stood feet away.
“Great that you got all these cops out here,” Gennarelli said to him as she walked by, sarcastically referring to the unnecessary police presence called over to the school.
Kovac merely smiled at her.
The next meeting of the concerned parents will be Tuesday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m. at Bronxonia Yacht Club, but before that, they’ll try to speak their piece at the CEC meeting Wednesday, June 16 at 1230 Zerega Ave. There, the superintendent of schools will be present, and Ben Signore, among the other parents, hopes to have their argument heard.