8/9/12 | 481 views
Schools Are In at Transfiguration
It was Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 1, the middle of the summer. If you figure not much was going on at Transfiguration School in the Chinatown section of Manhattan, you’d be in for a surprise.
I had hopped a subway downtown that day because Father Raymond Nobiletti, M.M., the longtime pastor of Transfiguration, had called about a press conference announcing an expansion in the school playground. Since it fit with the Back to School theme of this issue, I figured it would be worth taking the trip.
Transfiguration, after all, has a lot going for it. The school was opened in 1832 by now Venerable Father Felix Varela, a native of Cuba who served the mostly Irish immigrants of his day in lower Manhattan. He founded Transfiguration and neighboring St. James parishes and went on to become vicar general of the Archdiocese of New York. But that’s another story.
The latest chapters of the current Transfiguration School story are very encouraging to say the least. Last fall, the school was one of two in Manhattan (St. Ignatius Loyola School was the other) to be recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.
At the press conference, Michael Lenahan, the vice principal of the Lower and Upper School at Transfiguration, spoke proudly about the high number of graduating eighth-graders (17 of 28) in the Class of 2012, who were accepted at New York City’s specialized high schools, including Stuyvesant, Bronx High School of Science, Brooklyn Tech as well as Catholic high schools such as Marymount School and Dominican Academy, both in Manhattan.
Transfiguration is also a school where enrollment is growing, from 350 students to 550 throughout the last half dozen years. Back in 2006, Father Nobiletti said, he and the school administrators made the decision “to double the school from the bottom up,” by adding one class each year beginning with the prekindergarten classes. Plans call for the school to continue adding classes until 2016.
In 2010, Transfiguration School gained its third campus location when nearby St. James and St. Joseph’s schools merged. That facility, at 37 St. James Place, now houses the Upper School. The Lower School, including the kindergarten, is located on 29 Mott St., right next door to the parish church where workers were busy putting the finishing touches on an interior renovation the day I was there.
A couple blocks away, at 10 Confucius Plaza, the Early Childhood School stands on the ground floor of a large residential housing complex. When Emily Eng-Tran and I made our way back there, it was already well after 3 p.m.
I expected to see just the remnants of the day. Instead, school was in full session as young volunteers were busy decorating T-shirts for their own version of the Summer Olympics, which was to come this week. In another area, kids were learning music. Behind classroom doors, more young students were doing artwork or exercising or working on other lessons. And this was summertime.
Ms. Eng-Tran, herself a graduate of Transfiguration School, never thought she’d be back as principal of the Early Children School, but she’s sure glad she is. She told me she discovered “her passion” for education early on as a student at NYU. It shows.
The same can undoubtedly be said of Dr. Patrick Taharally and Michael Lenahan, principal and vice principal, respectively, of the Lower and Upper School.
I asked a question about Transfiguration’s role in the Chinatown community and got replies not only from school administrators but from parents and other supporters who were present. They spoke about community service projects, the school’s academic excellence and its service not only to Catholics and others in Chinatown but to others who commute to the area each day and want to have their children attend a school where they can strive to achieve.
“We’re here to stay,” Father Nobiletti said in concluding the press conference. “We hope people appreciate us.”
Browse our archive of photos