Trouble continues to brew at the East Village’s Girls Prep

Student artwork is proudly displayed on the walls of Girls Prep, at 51 Astor Place in the East Village. Photo by Dayna Clark

Petitions and emails are flying at Girls Prep Middle School in the East Village, with both parents, teachers and students claiming the once stellar middle school is in serious trouble.

“I fought tooth and nail to get my daughter into Girls Prep and I’ve been very happy with my daughters education. I just hope we can move past all this,” said Jamila Banks, whose daughter is in the 5th grade.

Parents were outraged at the abrupt firing of principal Kimberly Morcate last month after the schools scores in the city-wide progress report fell from  the 82nd percentile to the 13th percentile.

Parents are circulating an online petition to try and get Morcate reinstated. Disgruntled teachers sent out a group email to parents expressing their disagreement with the decision to fire Morcate and their frustrations with the current administration.

“Kim guided the culture of the school. In her absence, we feel untethered,” the teachers email said. “We are left in a school that is a shell of what it once was. The email goes on to explain the breakdown of the disciplinary system stating that “restricted lunch, a consequence that the girls understood and were accustomed to, has “disappeared.”

Students also recently started circulating their own petition calling the school “a wreck.” The petition also complains that new principal Ian Rowe, is never at the school. Rowe has no school administration experience. He would not respond to a request for an interview. Parents say that neither Rowe or co-principal, Rebekah Marler are in the school everyday.

“With Morcate, she was always there in the morning, walking into every class, making sure that everything was in order. Salazar said. “She knew all the girls by name. It’s little things like that, that really matter the most.”

Marler is currently on a two-week vacation and could not be reached for comment.

The crucial testing for the city-wide progress report is about three weeks away.

In a recent school board meeting Marler told the parents they were doing everything in their power to help the students succeed.

“We are developing a curriculum designed to empower each student to build strong character, demonstrate critical thinking, possess a core body of knowledge and be on a predictive path to earn a degree from a four year university,” she said.

But PTA president, Harley Sanchez’s new worry is that they will start to lose teachers.

I don’t think Ian (Rowe) realized how hard [all these changes] were going to be,” said Harley Sanchez, mother of a 5th grade student and PTA president. “I’m afraid we are going to lose some really good teachers because of it.”

The only certainty in the school’s future is that it will remain an East Village fixture. The Panel for Educational Policy voted in favor of the relocation of Girls Prep Middle School Wednesday at Brooklyn Technical High School. The middle school, currently residing on Astor Place, will share school space with East Side Community School at 12th street between 1st and Avenue A. The school year will open at the new  location.



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I am TIRED of discovering LIE after LIE from Ian Rowe and the BOARD. The BOARD NEVER did anything in their POWER to provide ANSWERS to the parents or PROOF to justify the SENSLESS FIRING and DISAPPEARANCE of a wonderful LEADER. They took on such an “UNPROFESSIONAL” person as Rebekah Marler to CONSULT with the EDUCATION and FUTURE of so many students when her CREDENTIALS are far from AVERAGE not to mention her ATTITUDE and UNETHICAL BEHAVIOR she displayed in front of many PARENTS and the BOARD which was DISGUISTING. How do you get a CONSULTANT who takes a 2 WEEK VACATION with a FEW WEEKS to testing and goes around saying she doesn’t need the AGGRAVATION AND WOULD LEAVE IN A HEARTBEAT???? Do I want to trust the FUTURE of my CHILD to someone with that ATTITUDE? NOT THIS PARENT!!!!! They fired such an excellent PRINCIPAL to get Marler who does nothing but SCREAM at the girls and I am not talking about talking in a loud voice but SCREAMING and POINTING FINGERS (LET ME CATCH HER!!!!!)and carry a LAWSUIT against her bought on by one of her former teachers. Here is the equation they worked on: UNJUSTIFIABLY FIRE A WONDERFUL PERSON WHO DID NOTHING BUT ASK FOR MORE HELP AND PUT THE WELL BEING OF HER STAFF AND THE GIRLS + BRING ON A NON-LEADER AND AN INCOMPETENT CONSULTANT=WE CROSS OUR FINGERS AND HOPE FOR THE BEST IF NOT WE CAN SAY THAT IS WHY WE FIRED THE COMPETENT PERSON WHO WAS DOING A GREAT JOB (the percentile scores mentioned in the article are overall for the ELEMENTARY SCHOOL and NOT a reflection of the MIDDLE SCHOOL). I am no longer holding back because of SCHOOL SPACE….and I will walk in and out of GIRLS PREP WITH MY HEAD HELD HIGH!!!! A NOTE TO THE PARENTS: THEY HAVE ALL LIED TO US BECAUSE WE ARE CONSIDERED TITLE 1 PARENTS…. I have SO MUCH MORE TO SAY!!!!

Tricia Johnson says:

The parents of Girls Prep Middle School are justifiably confused, angry and frustrated because a founding principal was removed, in their opinion, without cause. In the school’s first year, she managed to achieve good test results in spite of having to teach girls in the hallway for most of the school year because only one classroom had been assigned to the middle school. It is noteworthy that even though the DOE changed the scoring standards, the Girls Prep Middle School received the following rating from the DOE: Performance Index 133, Pass Rate 78%, Advanced 34%, Below Standard 0%. When the space allocated for the school year was lost one week prior to the opening of school, she successfully supervised the refurbishing of one floor of the Cooper Union Building and was able to start the school year with a loss of less than three weeks of school time. Parents were happy that in her first year, she was responsible for creating a partnership with an elite private school, a relationship from which their daughters benefitted and that their daughters were the beneficiaries of a pilot program to teach website code to middle school students. Yet, in spite of these successes, within six months of the new school year, the principal was removed with no plausible explanation to parents, who are aware that her repeated requests for additional instructional support for low performing students were ignored. The new CEO of Public Prep, the parent company of Girls Prep, Ian Rowe, a former mid-level MTV administrator, with no experience in teaching or education leadership, who has been on the job for between six and nine months was designated Acting Principal, and Rebekah Marler, a former public school principal, whose test scores last school year were a source of concern to the parents, was named de facto Instructional leader. According to the parents, the deterioration of instructional and disciplinary standards, as well as staff and student morale has been rapid under their leadership. They believe that the school year has been irretrievably lost for their daughters and they see no hope for a successful conclusion. The illusion of charter school privilege has been shattered.
The last sentence of Ms. Salazar’s blog is a critical key to the situation at Girls Prep. The charter school movement can be a force for good in urban communities, however the charter movement, continues the legacy of the current educational system of providing a good education for a “privileged few.” The privileged few in this instance being the handful of urban students who secure a place in the charter schools, while the majority of urban students continue to suffer from the fundamental inequities in the educational system. Furthermore, unlike independent schools, the intense focus on test scores in charters leaves little room for critical thinking and does not provide students with the aesthetics of the independent schools which are not test driven, but whose students qualify for and are assured of admission to the Ivy League and top tier universities.
Michael W. Apple, who recognizes “that social movements are the driving force behind social and educational reforms,” in his introduction to Jean Anyon’s book “Radical Possibilities” says “The disastrous state of the educational systems in urban areas today could provide impetus to organizing a new social movement.” (Introduction xi) The parents of Girls Prep Middle School should continue to ask for clear and verifiable reasons from the organization for the principal’s removal in the middle of the school year. Within that answer lies the seeds of a new “social movement” which the Girls Prep parents have unwittingly, in their desire for a quality education for their daughters, ignited. Ms. Salazar’s statement “They have all lied to us because we are Title 1 parents,” eloquently conveys the sense of powerlessness the parents are experiencing in their interactions with the Girls Prep CEO and Board. This lack of power, evidenced by the disastrous state of urban education, is mirrored in their decision to seek admission to a charter school for their daughters. They are learning that Title 1 status renders them powerless in the Charter School system as well. Parents must continue to demand transparency and accountability of Charter Schools, but more importantly, they must be at the vanguard of a new “social movement” for meaningful education reform. The present system of opening more charter schools is not the answer. It allows charters the freedom to discriminate against the most educationally needy as they seek to climb to the top of the Charter School hierarchy by virtue of their test scores; a position which ensures that they will receive substantial financial support from the hedge fund managers who provide significant funding for charter schools.

Ida Robin says:

In February, 2011, Ian Rowe, former MTV mid-level executive and newly minted CEO of Public Prep, the parent company of Girls Prep Middle School, abruptly removed the black, female, founding principal of the Girls Prep Middle School replacing her with himself as Acting Principal, and a female, Caucasian principal, who was recently separated from her school which had abysmal test scores in the 2009-2010 school year, as Instructional leader. As reason for this abrupt dismissal, Ian Rowe, in a letter to parents and the Public Prep community cited;
1) Feedback from parents and staff expressing dis-satisfaction with the principal and school.
2) Ongoing review of student data
In the aftermath of the removal, incensed parents and staff expressed their disapproval of
Ian Rowe’s actions and concern that Rowe with no prior experience as an education administrator or teacher together with his hand-picked Instructional leader were at best ill equipped to lead the school moving forward. The Board remained unmoved even though it was by now obvious that “family dis-satisfaction,” one of the reasons advanced by Ian Rowe for the removal of the principal, was patently false. As events developed, teachers informed the board in writing that neither Ian Rowe nor his appointee was providing instructional or other leadership to the staff and that together with the students they were adrift. The board remained unmoved and unconcerned that the students were deprived of the education which they had contracted in their charter to provide. Parents bemoaned the fact that they were powerless to move the board to act and that for all intents and purposes the school year for their children had ended in February.
I, like many others followed the discussion on the various community boards and wondered why, once it became obvious that Ian Rowe had misled the board into believing that the parents were dis-satisfied with the leadership of the school, the board did not act to re-instate the principal. I reasoned that were I in their position, I would choose the individual with a proven track record of performance over the one who had blatantly misled me and who also lacked the experience and training to lead the school. The welfare of the children entrusted to their care demanded no less. Nevertheless, as the board remained intractable, it appeared that as a good pitchman, Ian Rowe had convinced the board that he knew best or they had collaborated with him to manufacture reasons to remove the principal.
In May, 2011 Public Prep hired a new principal for the 2011-2012 school year and I breathed a sigh of relief and hope that the students of the Girls Prep Middle School would be able to recover from the damage inflicted on them by the inept management of Ian Rowe and the Girls Prep board. As the summer progressed, I noted that new staff was hired and that with two or three exceptions all of the previous staff had been replaced. I wished the students well and like everyone else moved on.
Imagine my surprise when this morning, I received an email advising me to check the key school demographics on the Girls Prep website. I have, and it is mind boggling. Anyone reading this can stop right now and check the following for yourself;
1) The school demographic report cites the level of student performance for the 2009-2010 school year. Under the former principal, 64% of 5th graders of Girls Prep Middle School scored at or above grade level in the ELA state exams. 96% scored at or above grade level in the State Social Studies exams. 72% scored at or above grade level on the Terra Nova reading tests. 92% scored at or above grade level in the New York State Math exam and 72% scored at or above grade level on the Terra Nova math exam.
2) 99% of families surveyed in January, 2011, less than a month before the principal was removed for parent dis-satisfaction, agree or strongly agree that Girls Prep continues to
maintain high expectations for students. 88% of families surveyed are satisfied with the level of school/family communications. 86% are satisfied with the level of engagement at Girls Prep.74% of families are satisfied with the level of safety and respect (though bullying is an issue of concern, however, 60% of families strongly disagreed that it was an area of concern.) 93% of families are satisfied with the school overall and 74% gave Girls Prep an A+ or A and 98% gave Girls Prep a B or above.
These are the declining test scores and family survey results which Ian Rowe and the Girls Prep board claimed as expressions of dis-satisfaction and valid reasons for removing the principal. At this time, I would like to reach out to the former principal, who has remained silent through this ordeal inflicted on her. A silence I presume may be due to the fact that she has signed some sort of settlement agreement with Public Prep which precludes her from discussing the issue. I sincerely hope that this public posting vindicates you and begins the process of rehabilitating and restoring your professional and personal reputation which Ian Rowe and the Girls Prep Board have maligned and defamed. Equally important, however, it appears that in the debate of Charter Schools vs Public Schools we may need to shift the discussion away from charters like Harlem Success Academies, which in spite of the viral negative response they engender from many in the community, myself included, appear to be doing something right and place the spotlight on charter organizations like Public Prep, the parent company of Girls Prep, which with incompetent, inept management and callous disregard for the students they have contracted to serve appear to be the poster child for what is wrong with charter schools.

Maria says:

And it continues to grow as 5 girls left by mid November, 5 by January and 3 in March. The school continues to sweep things under the rug – such as a student who was put in a headlock and required a neck brace, GP said it never happened – ask the students. One young lady fed up with the emotional abuse took a book of matches to burn down the school – GP never mentioned it to the parents. A parent notified the school of a pedophile in the area that made some remarks to her daughter and even called the police – school failed to notify the parents to be on the lookout. The male dean at the school enters a 7th grade class and tells the girls he is effin fed up with this s**t, no letters go out to the parents apologizing or to the students. The principal flat out lies and condems 20+ students as bullies – nothing to support this lie – all parents are not given copy of letter that is proof that the girls should of NEVER been labeled as bullies. Students are made to go up and down the stairs as punishment with their backpacks full of books, teachers scream in the students faces, students are not allowed to talk – they use hand gestures. How can parents sit back and just allow this —- remember the school is ONLY open because we support it. The 7th graders are not told about all the PERTINENT information that will help them get into challenging high schools – they are being kept in the dark. My daughter will not be back in 2012/13.

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