MCS Hosts Progressive Education Leaders for Networking and Event Planning

Andres David Lopez
Yesterday, Manhattan Country School hosted public, independent, and charter school leaders from throughout the city for a planning and networking meeting with the Progressive Education Network of New York (PENNY.)
The leaders are charged with planning a celebration next year in honor of the 50th anniversary of Central Park East One, Debbie Meier, its founding principal, and its staff. They discussed current strengths and challenges among schools that identify as progressive in the city.
“It feels really great to be here with all the famous progressive education people,” said Allison, assistant director at Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School. “PENNY is working to sustain the progressive pedagogy that the founders of schools in New York City initiated and articulated in the 1920s in relation to (John) Dewey’s theory of experience … Deborah Meier is at the center of this work because she imagined the work of progressive education for public schools in a new way … Many of these schools exist because of her work.”
For the last three years PENNY has functioned as a school leader support network, said Julie Zuckerman, founding principal emeritus of Castle Bridge School who serves on the PENNY board.
It coalesced and became active in 2015 after Julie and Maiya, our co-head of school at MCS, worked together to help organize and lead the Progressive Education Network National Conference.
Julie credits Maiya for extending conference invitations to include public, independent and charter schools. It wasn’t standard for schools across sectors to network and share best practices before that.
“We’re all part of the city,” Julie said. “We can see from the interests that people have, the challenges that they have, and the strengths of the schools, that people have a lot to share and ways to work together.”
Schools represented at the PENNY meeting included Lyons Community School, Greene Hill School in Brooklyn, Ella Baker School, and the Dalton School.
“MCS was started to be a model for other schools,” said Mary, our director of outreach. “So, the idea was that we were going to be a school that was working really closely with public and private schools … We all care about children and teaching them in this way … Progressive schools, my hope, is that they wouldn’t be so competitive, and I think by having PENNY they want to more so work together.”
Another goal for PENNY will be to engage leaders in higher education, Julie said.
Nowadays it is easy for schools to promote themselves as progressive in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion, she said, but Maiya and MCS are the real deal.
“Seeing the complexion of the school, the complexion of the staff, it really put the dream into focus,” she said. “MCS has a lot to teach and be a model for other schools and I would really like to see that happen.”
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