Jesse Pais has been the Dean of Students at New Design High School, located in the Lower East Side of NYC, for the last thirteen years. Jesse, who was born in Brooklyn, has established his identity in NYC by mentoring members of his community. In high school, Jesse began his humble journey by working as a recreation counselor in an after school program called the Greenwich Village Youth Council (GVYC). This aided his transition into a larger role with the program where he advised the youth in drug prevention and utilized sports to keep kids out of trouble. Aside from the logistical aspects of his work, Jesse has curated a number of events that reflect his urban background such as “Rooftop Legends” -- a fundraiser that features numerous graffiti and street artists’ work on the rooftop of New Design. As a youth, Jesse was involved with graffiti which sparked his need to preserve the art form and provide a safe and legal outlet for the community to express itself. Rooftop Legends, established in 2007, started with predominantly NYC artists but has grown into an international affair that takes place annually with the help of long time friend, DJ Enuff, from Hot 97. Jesse’s strong roots in New York City culture help fuel his passion for youth development.
Nicole Lavonne Smith currently serves as the Restorative Justice Coordinator at Science Skills Center High School in downtown Brooklyn. Nicole is an educator and writer who advocates for racial and social justice, and culturally relevant education for students of color in underserved communities. She believes that the purpose of an educator is to aid students in finding their voices and realizing their value both as individuals and global citizens. Nicole holds a Master in Urban Planning with a focus on International Development from New York University, and a Bachelor in Psychology from Howard University.
Our guest this week, Dr. Marc A. Meyer, has been active in K-12 education since 1997. He has served as Director of Academics and Head of the Ross School in East Hampton, NY and Head of the Brown School in Schenectady, NY. In 2002 Marc led a team of educators in the “soup to nuts” planning for an innovative K-8 school funded by Columbia University. He subsequently served as The School at Columbia University’s first Director of Curriculum and Research. Later, while working with the Hawn Foundation to develop and disseminate MindUP, and as the Foundations full-time Director of Education as Strategic Partnerships, Dr. Meyer conducted scores of professional development workshops on four continents and gave many public lectures on SEL and the neuroscience of learning. He has also worked as an educational consultant to many schools in New York, Texas, California, Colorado, and Vermont.
Today's guest Rosa Pietanza brings 24 years of experience in the New York City Public School system to Recess. She is an assistant principal of Foreign Languages and ESL, as well as founding principal of University Neighborhood HS, an NYU partnership school. Throughout her career, she has served as a mentor to many new principals, administrators, and teachers. Pietanza is the coordinator of partnership schools for Steinhardt's teacher education programs, where her responsibilities include strengthening relationships with partner schools, exploring opportunities for collaboration, and connecting students' coursework with their field experience.
This week's guest Chris Barley began his teaching career through the NYC Teaching Fellowship in October 2005. Originally from a farm in Lancaster, PA, Chris never planned on becoming a teacher; he had his sights set on becoming a doctor. However,Chris quickly fell in love with languages and studied Spanish and Linguistics as an undergraduate at Georgetown University. Chris currently teaches at Essex Street Academy, a small school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where he currently teaches Spanish and Portuguese.
This week's guest Kate Quarfordt is a co-founder of City School of the Arts, a new arts-based charter middle school opening in this fall in Lower Manhattan. She previously served as founding director of the musical theater program at Bronx Preparatory Charter School, where she encouraged young people to engage with the arts as a direct pathway to transformational learning experiences in all disciplines. Over the past decade, Kate has mentored a community of young people who have gone on to speech championships, gold-medal winning acting performances, college scholarships and successful careers in education, technology, medicine and the arts. During this candid interview, she shares how her grandmother, 9/11, and feeling like an outsider, helped shaped her to become the extraordinary teacher she is today.
On this debut episode of "Recess with Eric Komoroff," we welcome in Dr. Scott Conti. Scott is the founding principal of New Design High School in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It's a great conversation with two pals dedicated to improving the lives of students in urban areas.