Volume 76, Number 15 | August 30 -September 5, 2006

Back to School

Villager photo by Elisabeth Robert

Kelly Shannon, principal of P.S. 41

Bringing the parents into the classroom at P.S. 41

By David Spett

Parental involvement in education is a major goal for Kelly Shannon, the second-year principal of P.S. 41, the Greenwich Village School.

By inviting parents into the classroom every two weeks through a program called Family Mornings, Shannon, 36, said she has helped make them an active part of children’s learning. Bringing parents into the classroom makes teaching more transparent, she said.

“When you make things transparent, and parents feel they can come and question in a respectful way, it just makes the teacher-child-school relationship much better,” Shannon said. “When you make things transparent, people don’t feel like if [they] don’t get something, they can’t ask a question.”

Shannon — who originally taught history to older students in the preK-5 school and was promoted to assistant principal in 2000, then principal in 2005 — said students are required to keep notebooks that show parents their progression of learning.

“ ‘I see what my child is learning, and here’s how I can help,’” Shannon said, explaining the parents’ viewpoint. Parents are “partners with the child and with the school,” she stressed.

This year, Shannon said she hopes to increase transparency even further, working specifically to inform parents of what is being taught in social studies and mathematics.

With two children of her own, Shannon said she understands that parents sometimes don’t know how teachers are presenting concepts to students. The goal of the notebooks, she said, is to show parents just that.

Speaking as a parent, she said, “I have a certain way I’ve learned, so sometimes I do it differently than what they’re doing in the classroom, and you want to mesh those together.”

Continuing with the theme of transparency, Shannon described herself as approachable and receptive to parents’ worries and complaints.

“If you have a concern, bring it to me, talk about it, and we’ll come to some kind of solution. Sometimes we’ll agree right away, and sometimes we’ll agree to disagree,” Shannon said. “Ultimately, that’s what we have to go on. If it doesn’t work, we’ll be held accountable.”

This year, about 750 students have enrolled at P.S. 41, which is located on 11th St. between Sixth and Seventh Aves. It’s the school’s largest enrollment ever, Shannon said. In grades K-2, class sizes will be about 22; grade 3 will have 28 students per class on average; and grades 4-5 will have 30.

According to the Web site greatschools.net, 95 percent of Greenwich Village School students meet or exceed testing standards in math, and 93 percent meet or exceed standards in English. Both figures have increased in the past four years and are above the state average. Ten parents have rated the school on the site, giving it a four-star average. The maximum is five stars.

Jill Stern, whose daughter is entering fourth grade and whose son just graduated, said Shannon is doing an impressive job.

“She’s motivated, and you can tell that she’s focused,” Stern said of Shannon. “Last year, she and her assistant principal were always in the classrooms. Her presence was shown. Everyone’s happy with her.”

Stern was complimentary of Shannon’s attempts to increase parental involvement in the classroom.

“I was a little bad last year and couldn’t attend all” of the Family Mornings, Stern said. But “just knowing there was that opportunity was nice,” she added.

Jill Tapia, co-president of the school’s P.T.A. and parent of a fifth-grader, said parents look to Shannon as a role model.

“I’m a big supporter of Kelly,” Tapia said. “Wow, she’s successful.”

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