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Principal Will Lead New Kips Bay School With Experiential Learning

KIPS BAY — The principal of a new Kips Bay School is gearing up to welcome its first class of kindergartners this fall with a curriculum focused on arts, community collaboration and technology.

In five years, Nicole Ziccardi Yerk, the newly appointed principal of P.S. 281, said she hopes the school will have established a community among its students.

“We will be filled to capacity by 2018,” she said. “I hope that there is a community that we have established with the families and the grades.”

She said she hopes to collaborate with local institutions like Columbia University and Hunter College to create after-school programs.  Expression through technology is another focus.

“I can’t say how many we will have, but we will definitely have iPads,” said Yerk. “We will have plenty of supplies.”

Last September, The Department of Education announced that it would be opening the new K-5 elementary school at 425 E. 35th St.

Parents have been anxiously awaiting its opening, anticipating that a new elementary school could help stem overcrowding problems in the area that have led to lengthy waiting lists for incoming kindergartners and, at P.S. 59, first-graders, too.

Construction of the school continues and little is known about its interior, Yerk said, but a rooftop playground is a possibility.

Parents shouldn't worry about waiting lists as there will be plenty of room for zoned students, she said.

Though parents have said they wanted a gifted and talented or a dual-language program at the school, Yerk said those programs will not be offered in the fall.

How did you decide that you wanted to lead the school?

The Office of New Schools is an initiative by the Department of Education to pair up strong leaders with different schools they need to open up for one reason or another.

I entered this process in September with a mission and a vision, a staffing plan, and all the intricacies that go into building a school. I had no idea that I would end up in District 2 with my proposal. This proves dreams really do come true.

How old are you?

I’m experienced. Let’s just leave it at that.

Where did you grow up?

I am from Long Island, that’s where I was born and raised. I moved into New York City in 2001. I’m the youngest of four siblings.

Where did you work before you were assigned this job?

I applied to five prominent elementary schools that share the same philosophy I believed in. I got the [teaching] job at P.S. 89, where I spent the last seven years. Prior to that I attended Hunter College, where I graduated and got my literacy licensing to be a literacy specialist.

Is there a teacher or principal you had that stands out to you? Why?

I had an amazing second-grade teacher named Mrs. Gladding. Subsequent teachers were compared to Mrs. Gladding.

She gave us time and space to pour into a book and read. Back then, there was Round Robin reading where you’d have your paragraph and you’d read it aloud, and the next child would read another paragraph. It was a source of humiliation in the classroom and she never made us do that.

What do you want the school to look like in five years?
We will be filled to capacity by 2018. I hope there is a community that we have established with the families and the grades.

I look forward to delving deeply, to having a kindergarten curriculum to start, and having that real continuity. I want to see how [the students] have built upon what was learned and see the growth that happened in the year prior.

What is the most important thing that you want students graduating from the school to have learned?

For some students, the school experience may not have been a positive one. When fifth graders are graduating, I want them to look back and say, 'I’ve learned so much and I can express myself.' They’re confident and can say, 'I understand my emotions and I can accomplish anything I desire.'