We’re so happy and excited to launch the website for our new school! It’s our hope that this site can function as a resource for building our community through information sharing, networking, and reflection on and celebration of our school’s accomplishments.
In just a few short months our school will open with its founding class. I look forward to September with pride and excitement. The Unison story started in 2010 when, in my current capacity as the Director of New School Development for the Urban Assembly, I was urged by a colleague to visit a public school in Manhattan to see a promising curriculum being implemented by NYU Professor Cynthia McCallister. At the start of the day, 6th grade teacher Amy Piller (now on the Unison planning team) presented about the incredible impact the curriculum was having on her students’ achievement and her own practice. We were then invited to wander the school and it’s classrooms to observe Learning Cultures in action.
I have thirteen years of experience as an educator working in or developing new schools. Having visited dozens in my current role, and previously as a leader and teacher at the UA New York Harbor School and Bushwick Community High School, I’ve never seen such high quality classroom practice so coherently and consistently implemented. In every classroom I visited, students were engaged working independently and in groups and running the systems of the classroom. They could explain what they were doing, why, and what their next steps were with a solid sense of purpose. Diverse groups of learners were supporting each other by giving feedback and pushing each other’s thinking. Kids worked at their own pace on differentiated goals. The classroom atmosphere was lively but calm; the atmosphere was safe, nurturing and promoted independence. My colleague Andrew Koncz, UA Director of Youth Development (also on the Unison planning team) helped me to understand why the curriculum promotes such healthy school culture—social emotional learning is integrated into the academic curriculum, instead of being taught on the side.
We continued to visit and eventually formed a partnership with Cynthia to create a new school with her curriculum as its foundation. The more I worked with the project team and studied the model, the more I found myself fantasizing in my free time about what the school could be. I came to believe that this instructional model is the most exciting thing I’ve seen in my career, and so I’ve decided to jump back in with two feet and become the school’s proposed principal. Working with Amy, Andrew, Cynthia the Urban Assembly and the NYCDOE on this project has been an honor and very joyful. As a longtime resident and homeowner in Clinton Hill, I’m also thrilled to locate this new school in my community, where we’re looking forward to building relationships with community members, other schools, businesses, cultural and civic organizations.
I’ll continue to update this page with our stories. And, I invite you to reach out over the summer and visit when we open.