The three-month-old charter school that ex-Chancellor Joel Klein invited into the Department of Education’s headquarters is without a principal after Eileen Coppola resigned abruptly last week.
“I was very surprised,” said Miles Merwin, the vice chair of the school’s board of trustees who accepted Coppola’s resignation.
In a letter sent home with students yesterday, Coppola is quoted as saying that the job had proved harder than she anticipated. “As the mother of two young children I found the job to be too demanding on my time and it began to interfere with my ability to take care of my children,” the letter quoted her as saying.
Peg Hoey, the director of the nonprofit that operates Innovate Manhattan, will serve as the school’s head until a replacement for Coppola is found, Merwin said. Before working to open Innovate Manhattan, Hoey was the special education director at New Heights Academy Charter School and was on the founding teams at Opportunity and Equality charter schools.
Coppola, who had traveled to Sweden earlier this year to receive training about the school’s student-directed curriculum, did not respond to requests for an interview today.
But Merwin said the school year had shaped up to be full of surprises — for board members, students, and Coppola. For one thing, he said, administrators rapidly became real estate prospectors when the DOE announced the school would have to move next year to make way for a new school, the Peck Slip School. Plus, 30 percent of the first crop of students came with Individualized Education Plans, meaning that administrators had to shift their staffing and instructional thinking to offer more special education support. And Coppola also had to take on unanticipated additional tasks, at least temporarily, Merwin said.
He said the board would seek an immediate replacement for Coppola and would likely involve parents in the search process. Members of the board are set to discuss the school’s twin challenges — leadership and location — at a meeting tonight, he said.
“We’re not looking for anything different,” he said. “I think Eileen is a very, very smart, dedicated woman and educator. … She was liked by the staff. She was liked by the students.”
It was the second resignation in just over a year for Coppola, who resigned as principal of the prestigious Hunter College High School in 2010 amid tensions over the school’s lack of racial diversity. Between leaving that position and beginning at Innovate Manhattan, she worked at the New Visions nonprofit, which supports dozens of city schools, according to her profile on the professional networking site LinkedIn.
Merwin, a self-proclaimed “neophyte” in the charter school world who works in human resources for a magazine publisher, said the board would also seek new members to help manage the monumental task of managing the school. Of the eight board members listed on the school’s website, one left after taking a position with an advocacy organization.
“I am amazed at the amount of time that teachers and the staff put into the school,” he said. “Being a schoolteacher for two years was one of the hardest jobs I ever had and in this charter school it is even harder.”