Seth Boyden Elementary School has bid a warm farewell to its principal of ten years, Mark Quiles. The school now welcomes new principal Damion Frye, who was most recently Special Assistant to the Assistant Superintendent of the Newark public school system.
In a special tribute to Mr. Quiles at the Seth Boyden Ice Cream Social in June, past PTA president Jenny Winters thanked the retiring principal for his “stability and leadership and support,” and particularly his championing of the arts. “We all owe him a great, great debt for his dedication to this school,” Winters said. Another former PTA president, Rhonda Wilson-Duncan, praised “his passion, his tenacity, his drive, and his commitment” to the children and families of Seth Boyden.
As part of his legacy, Mr. Quiles leaves the new Outdoor Learning Center, or OLC, a schoolyard complex that has been expanded this year to include a classroom, a performance area, an art nook, and a habitat garden. The performance space has been named in his honor, and a cooling-off mist sprayer has been christened the “Mister Quiles.”
Mr. Quiles reflects fondly on his ten years at the school. “Seth Boyden is a living entity; more than a building, it is people. I hope I have encouraged leadership and desire to grow, learn and explore in both children and adults. People are the real legacy a person can develop and leave.” Already a veteran of television, movies, and the stage, Mr. Quiles will now turn to acting full-time. He is currently performing with the Palisades Players in “My Name Is Asher Lev” and will appear in the upcoming film “Lily” as the title character’s father.
The new Seth Boyden principal, Damion Frye, took the reins on July 5. A father of two, Mr. Frye grew up in Montclair and graduated from Montclair High School in 1994. He holds a B.A. in African-American Studies from Bates College and a Masters in Elementary Education from Brown. He’s taught multiple subjects and grades, including math at the North Star Academy Charter School in Newark and English at his alma mater, Montclair High. In 2007, the New York Times devoted an article to one of Mr. Frye’s novel methods for teaching Montclair ninth-graders: requiring parents to respond to some of the same reading assignments as their kids.
Mr. Frye moved into education administration in 2009. He was the Dean of Middle School Students at the Equity Project Charter School in Manhattan, which he helped to found, and where he was also a Language Arts Teacher. He then served as the Director of Mathematics for the New York Department of Education District 79, a division that specializes in students returning to school after an interruption. In his post before coming to Seth Boyden, he advised the Assistant Superintendent of the Newark public schools on curriculum and instruction.
Mr. Frye has pledged to work with the Seth Boyden faculty to refine the curriculum over time. “Seth Boyden is already an excellent school with a great staff, parents, and student body,” he affirms. “I want to continue the environmental education focus that Mr. Quiles began and ensure everyone is using the outdoor classroom.”
Still, he’s excited to introduce some innovations. He plans to enliven the school’s Twitter feed and start an Instagram account to reach the Seth Boyden community in new ways. His preliminary vision statement outlines a plan to get rid of homework worksheets in favor of more creative assignments, such as “real-world problems, online explorations, creative/expository writing and reading.”
“The only problem I foresee will be my desire to implement some additional ideas all at once, knowing that the teachers already have much to consider,” the new principal says. “Hence, any additional ideas will have to be rolled out when the staff is ready and I can fully support their needs.”
In his history of using progressive methods in the classroom, and in the plans for change that he has shared so far, Mr. Frye well suits the Seth Boyden mission as a demonstration school of leading-edge education. “I am truly humbled and honored to have been given the chance to lead the Seth Boyden community,” Mr. Frye says. “The administration team and faculty will work to ensure that the students engage in learning experiences which are innovative but still grounded in helping to envision what can be possible for students of all ages.”