Volume 76, Number 23 | October 25 - 31, 2006

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Christine Quinn and teacher Otis Kriegel with a class of fourth and fifth graders as Quinn was asked if there were any councilmembers with whom she disagreed.

Quinn shows she can be a principal too at P.S. 3

By Jefferson Siegel

Christine Quinn, City Council speaker, became Christine Quinn, school principal, last Thursday morning as the speaker paid a visit to P.S. 3 on Hudson St. Quinn was participating in a program organized by Public Education Needs Civic Involvement in Learning, or PENCIL, which involves public officials with neighborhood schools by giving them a firsthand look at daily life in the classroom.

Accompanied by school principal Lisa Siegman, Quinn strolled the halls, stopping often to admire student artwork on bulletin boards and greet children as they walked between classrooms.

In a ground-floor classroom, Quinn praised the finger-painting skills of a group of pre-K artists. One or two children were surprised to see a visitor, but most were engrossed as their paint-dipped fingers brushed across canvases.

In another room, Quinn and Siegman stood quietly in the back, listening as youngsters learned proper letter pronunciation by chanting in unison, “um-brel-la.”

After visiting several classes, Quinn took an orange juice break, sitting down with a quartet of fourth and fifth graders to ask what they liked best about P.S. 3.

“I like it that we’re helping in Afghanistan,” fifth grader Aurora Fitch told the speaker. “We are helping build a school.”

“I liked history and reading,” Quinn told the students. “I like to read biographies, stories about people’s lives.” Quinn told the students she was currently reading a book on Israel’s former prime minister, Golda Meir. One student said her mother was reading a book on Judy Garland, prompting Quinn to caution that, “Judy Garland had a very complicated life. We should all try not to have lives that are complicated.”

Showing political acumen, Quinn had a question for the young experts, asking if they had iPods and how to get a song onto one.

“You do it manually,” advised fourth grader Caroline Wallis, and Quinn thanked her for the tip.

Following this informal sit-down, Quinn held the equivalent of a press conference with two dozen fourth and fifth graders in Otis Kriegel’s classroom.

“Hi, my name is Chris,” Quinn said as a semicircle of students gathered on the floor in front of her. “I live in Chelsea with my partner, Kim, and our dog, Sadie.”

Unlike City Hall Q & A’s on the city budget or contract talks, Quinn fielded questions such as, “Do you ever get stressed out working?” (Answer: She does yoga and watches the Lifetime cable channel to relax) and “Are you a Republican, Democrat or other?” (Answer: Democrat).

One astute youngster, Zach, got right to the point, asking, “Do you ever want to go farther than speaker?”

“Maybe” Quinn replied diplomatically, adding, “There’s other positions in city government.”

As the sound of children playing outside drifted in through open windows, Quinn described what happens with councilmembers she disagrees with (“Sometimes we disagree and we talk about it and we work it out”) and the two things she’s most proud of (making the Division of AIDS Services permanent and getting funding for bulletproof vests for police).

Turning the tables, Quinn asked, “How many people want the Mets to win tonight?” Almost every hand shot straight up. As a parting gift, Quinn was given a P.S. 3 pencil.

“I love that,” she said as she stood to write her name on a paperboard.

“It exceeded my expectations,” Principal Siegman said after Quinn left. “She’s just a really terrific listener. She interacted beautifully with the children from pre-K up through fifth grade.”

And, not once during her brief tenure did Quinn utter the typical school administrator’s admonishment, “No talking!”

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