West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 17 | Sept. 26 - Oct. 2, 2007

PENCIL helps author middle-school brand campaigns

By Albert Amateau

A fourth grade class at P.S. 3 in the Village, guided by employees from UBS Financial Services, tracked stocks they picked over a two-month period and compared the movement to world events and oil prices.

The publisher of Crain’s New York Business had a lunchtime meeting in the magazine’s offices last fall for students in the Urban Assembly School of Business for Young Women on E. 12th St. Crain’s publisher, Jill Kaplan, and the school principal, Patricia Minaya, are planning more partnership projects this year.

The executive director of the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation, Angela Ruth, has been working since 1998 with the principal and students of P.S. 19 on First Ave. at E. 11th St. in programs that include book drives, a museum for students to exhibit and sell their artwork and tutorial sessions credited with increasing class reading scores by 10 percent, according to the principal, Ivan Kushner.

Those partnerships are among about 400 throughout the five boroughs, sponsored by PENCIL — the acronym for Public Education Needs Civic Involvement — organized in 1995 to get private businesses involved in public education.

“Education is everybody’s business,” said Michael Haberman, PENCIL’s president since January. “Our mission is to galvanize and coordinate civic involvement in New York City public education to improve student achievement. And business people have the talent and experience that can make a difference to a school,” said Haberman, whose own experience includes having been president of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce and director of government and community affairs for New York University.

PENCIL’s annual Principal for a Day (the 2007 event is Oct. 18) pairs thousands of New Yorkers from the private sector with city schools and their principals. Principal for a Day is something of a misnomer because the goal is to get people permanently involved in public education.

Mary Pisarkiewicz, a founder of Pisarkiewicz & Mazur, a marketing and communications consulting firm, became a partner of Greenwich Village Middle School two years ago as the result of a Principal for a Day event. The school shares the building at 490 Hudson St. with P.S. 3.

“I talked to the then-principal, Isora Bailey, and she said, ‘We don’t need money. We need help with our computer setup, and mostly we need people to know more about the school,’” Pisarkiewicz recalled.

It was a good fit with Pisarkiewicz’s expertise in branding and corporate identity. With Greenwich Village Middle School’s theme, “community involvement,” in mind, Pisarkiewicz and the school staff created a distinctive logo, school stationary and a new school Web site. Theme events included the Greenwich Village community and communities around the world.

“We had a Save Darfur Day that involved students, teachers and parents,” she recalled.

Kelly McGuire, Greenwich Village Middle School’s current principal, credits the partnership with significantly increasing the number of applicants for admission to the school.

Middle schools in the city are organized around different themes which carry through each school’s curriculum, so creating a “brand” for a school is very important to differentiate it from other schools and to generate school spirit and a sense of school identity among students, according to Pisarkiewicz.

“I think city schools have improved very much in the past several years,” she said. Her two sons, one in college and the other graduated from college, went to private schools when the family lived in the city when they were young.

“If I were bringing up children today I’d definitely send them to the public schools,” said Pisarkiewicz. “I think Bloomberg and Joel Klein have done a wonderful job.

“I became involved with Principal for a Day because children are the future of our country and parents have to be involved — no matter how good or how bad the school is,” she said.

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