PS 118 (formly referred to as 763), the new program at St. Thomas Aquinas

Liz Phillips, PS 321 Principal, Elizabeth Garraway, Proposed 763 PrincipalThank goodness, we can call it something other than "the mystery school" or "formerly know as"! It seems that it is PS 118. Elizabeth Garraway, current AP at PS 321 and proposed principal for the new school attended an Open House at the St. Thomas Aquinas building so that neighborhood families could get a peak at her and at the new building the week before Thanksgiving. It was a tough crowd, but everyone attending was more interested in information than aggravation.

The big take away is that she is ready and enthusiastic to partner with families to make the program the good fit for the neighborhood. Since the school has not been voted on by the PEP and she is not officially principal there is only so much she can propose. Also because she wants this to really be a collaboration between parents and the administration, she needs to have those one on one discussions with families who want to be part of the process. She encouraged families to write her with questions, concerns or ideas

Parents and educators from 321 were there in force to support Ms. Garraway. It is clear that she is a respected colleague and friend and that her coworkers are excited that she has this terrific opportunity to build something really meaningful from scratch. More than that though, Liz Phillips described the official mentoring process that is in place for Ms. Garraway and for the school. The DoE often pairs new principals with experienced colleagues in an official way and Ms. Phillips has been working with Ms. Garraway for a while to support her transition to school leader. That support won't end next fall. It is an ongoing process and the staff developers and other academic support staff from 321 will have an ongoing role in helping the school get on its feet.

The building is pretty vertical. There are stairs at both ends of a central hallway that has bright classrooms on both sides. Several of the first floor classrooms have shared bathrooms right off the rooms. There is a lunchroom that runs the full length of the school's basement and a very large gym room (along with a current music classroom) on the top floor. The school is tidy and intimate with ceramic tile lining the hallways and large windows in every classroom.

This school will begin with only 2 classes of kindergarteners; probably 40 to 50 students. We don't know if prek classes are in the DoE's plans. People are a little confused about how 50 students will relieve the overcrowding at 321. They won't- they will just slow the growth the first year. 321 will likely be capped at around 9 sections (rather than the current 11). When those 2008 bday kids are first graders the school will be smaller by 4 sections and then 6 at second grade, etc. It will be incremental change. Families found it hard to believe that the city would leave the PS 118 building empty to await its own "vertical growth". Carrie Marlin, Brooklyn Director of Planning, said that there were no plans to co-locate a charter in the building. While it seems unlikely that the building will be totally vacant except for a couple classrooms, the DoE isn't foolish. They rezoned for a reason; overcrowding. They have every intention of making this school a viable option in the neighborhood. Why would they immediately hobble this new option? They occasionally, temporarily "incubate" new programs together, but I haven't found any evidence that they have plans for this yet. Don't let your imaginations run away with you about all the ways the DoE is out to mess this up. They have left other promising new schools alone to grow. They may do the same thing here.