Usually you look for three things in a school; a visionary principal who is also a good manager, a team of teachers who are working together, helping each other and the principal to achieve their goals, and an active parent community who can bring their sweat equity and/or fundraising to support lots of interesting programs in the school. In many schools that are doing a good job you find that two of the areas are well developed and a third could use some help. Every school has its own story, and I challenge you to have a say in this one!
PS 196 has a relatively easy hurdle to climb. They need more neighborhood parents. It isn't that the parents who are there are not wonderful - because they are, but this is an under capacity program that is on the verge of bursting into its own and the only thing that is holding them back is the lack of resources and just plain help. Surely there is a talented graphic/web designer who can help the overtaxed teacher who has been trying to design their website - one among many challenges (the reason that there are no current parent comments on insideschools is that many of their parents don't have access to computers - they have a huge folder full of handwritten love at the school).
I visited Mrs. Colon and her staff last week and was blown away by their energy, good humor and vision. PS 196 is located on the second block of Bushwick Ave. in the East Williamsburg neighborhood. They have a spectacular Robin Hood Library, new auditorium, Kids Rock guitar music classes and a new computer lab. They do an art festival and huge career day each year. They are continually reaching out to the community in all ways (I saw the staff out in large numbers, in their pale blue "196 Rocks" shirts at School Fest last year), but somehow no one is seeking them out. This is a shame because if you just met them you would love them. My time there flew by as they described their programs and each time I turned around another bright and enthusiastic staff member had joined the conversation. The teachers all had invitations to an "End of the ELA Test" party. I have hardly ever seen a more collegial staff.
Heh District 14! You are pioneers! This is a school with small class sizes, their test scores are high, they have had under 10% teacher turnover for the past two years and they are dying to welcome you with a progressive open door policy. Where are you?! I challenge local businesses and new parents to take a look, because this is a school that will become a super star with your help.
They are holding open houses every Wednesday at 9am. Go see them this week! 718-497-0139