My view of the District 15 Diversity Plan for Middle School

My view of the District 15 Diversity Plan for Middle School

District 15 has gone through a long and public process to work toward a plan to bring more balanced diversity to district middle schools. They have engaged parents in the planning process in many ways over years. You can read the plan here.

Why do I care? First, parents come to me very fearful about what the future holds for their students and I want to explain what they may be able to expect. Second, it is personal.

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Update on Prek for fall 2016

Update on Prek for fall 2016

Public prek application season has started. Applications can be submitted online from 1/25 through 3/4 as well as in person or by phone. This is NOT a first come, first served process (it is crazy how that rumor persists). You are placed in early to mid May and then you are automatically placed on a wait list for any school that you ranked higher than the school you are placed in. There may be some new programs added during the late spring and you can apply to them in Round 2 (May2-20).

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Applying for Elementary School: Chapter 3, Rich Man - Poor Man

Applying for Elementary School: Chapter 3, Rich Man - Poor Man

I hear parents talk with great certainty about how you need to find a school with a rich PTA to get arts, staff and other untold benefits. Schools, please tell me that I am wrong, but that is not what I see on many tours. What you need is a savvy and thoughtful Principal who will attract a staff that can multi task, including grant writing to bring the programs that they need. Now this is not a blog meant to excuse gross inequities in the system and the fact that public school educators have to be superior grant writers to bring basic arts and enrichments to their schools is appalling. BUT parents who think that you can only get the 'good stuff' at a 'rich school' can be shockingly misinformed. This is a valentine to the schools serving the kids who are not coming from affluent homes, who have done amazing things.

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I wasn't there, but I have an opinion

I wasn't there, but I have an opinion

This is classic - she doesn't show up to the Public Forum: “Reimagining the Middle School Admissions Process in District 15”, but she has an opinion about it. I did have a good excuse: the first of two college graduations. I applaud everyone involved! and I will make every effort to attend and support all discussions on this issue. From the reports that I have read, there were many thoughtful and diverse perspectives of the effects of the current process and some options mentioned for possible models. I really like one possible option over the others and I want to tell you why.

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new middle school talk!

Due to popular demand, I have developed a new middle school talk to be given on Thurs. June 25 at 7pm at Hootenanny Art House in the south slope. It is not location specific, so whether you are in D15 or any of the surrounding districts you will take away valuable information about how the process works and how to think about the middle years in general. My goal is to untangle the spaghetti of information and see the glass half full (which it is) instead of being fearful and anxiety ridden, which never ever helped anyone get a middle school placement.

Tickets are $30 and available here.

2015 prek round up

2015 prek round up

You have until Fri. April 24 to apply for Universal Prek.
You can apply online here or at a Family Welcome Center or by phone 718-935-2067
You can find the Prek Directories here but there are also Updated Directories with many new seats available.
I have listed some notable changes below. This is not a comprehensive guide. You need to scour the lists for yourself.

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huzzah! new ms 839 in district 15

huzzah! new ms 839 in district 15

New school alert. We knew it was coming- the beautiful new building on E. 8th St. between Kermit and Caton is almost done. PS 130 has been rezoned and "split-sited" and will be occupying part of the building. MS 839, a small school (300 students when they are at capacity in 3 years) will be opening in the fall. If you are interested, sign up for email alerts on their website. All District 15 5th graders can apply by asking for a "New School Application form" from your school. That application is separate from your main application. If you receive an offer to MS 839, you will still have your main round middle school offer and you choose between the two. A little more school information here. Can't wait to learn more!

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what happened at the meeting about K437 (mystery sparkle school)

Last night the D15 CEC (Community Education Council) held a meeting at PS 130 in Kensington to begin the process of community education and review. The topic was possible rezoning to relieve overcrowding in the surrounding school zones (154, 130, 131 essentially) and to determine what the heck is going to happen with mystery sparkle school on E.8th between Kermit and Caton.

It was a very crowded with neighbors and parents from Windsor Terrace and Kensington. The CEC invited Carrie Marlin, Director of Planning for Brooklyn Schools, and City Council-person Brad Lander, to speak along with Anita Skop District 15 Superintendent and members of the community. Here's the deal:

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new acting principal for ps 295

A lot of strong schools in several neighborhoods have been getting new principals for the past couple of years. Sometimes it is because the principal is retiring, sometimes they have been offered a position that is too good to pass up. Usually the school will do a search for the right candidate, inside their school as well as outside. Being a Assistant Principal is not like being "Vice President" or the first runner up for Miss America. They may be a likely candidate, but the job of Principal is not a natural career progression for everyone. More than half of the new principals below came from outside the school community.

Shout out to Lena Barbera at PS 20 in Ft. Greene, Eve Litwack at 107 in the South Slope, Rebecca Fagin at PS 29 in Cobble Hill, Eric Havlick at PS 154 in Windsor Terrace, and now Linda Mazza at PS 295 in Greenwood Heights.

I wrote about the process of getting a new principal in "When Your Beloved Principal Leaves". You can read more about Ms. Mazza on the school's website.

I loved this quote from an active PS 295 parent, "She really gets kids and understands how things work in the classroom--I'm so glad we'll be putting her experience and insight to work for the school as a whole (though, selfishly, I'm sorry to lose her as one of my son's classroom teachers!)"


BUGS: Brooklyn Urban Garden Charter School

Big news for 5th graders! BUGS is opening in District 15 in fall of 2013.

Why are they opening this school?
"BUGS initially grew out of street corner and on-going kitchen table conversations between local parents and educators concerned about the number of middle school options in District 15. Once we began taking seriously the possibility of creating a new school, we assembled our academic team and realized the potential we have to not just add needed middle school seats, but to create a cutting edge, developmentally appropriate educational model for the middle years. The selection of an environmental sustainability focused curriculum allows us to offer educational programming that will not only engage the hearts and minds of students, but is a perfect vehicle for teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). We feel strongly that our model will offer this community not just much needed additional middle school seats, but a rich, engaging, rigoruous and meaningful educational experience for our students that can launch them not just to excel in high school, but to seize opportunities for all of their lives.

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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 763 for now. 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

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PS 133, School of Choice

Heather Foster-Mann, PrincipalI am sure you have heard by now that PS 133 (temporarily located in the St. Thomas Aquinas building on 4th Ave. and 8th St. for the last 3 years) has become a "school of choice" for both District 13 and 15. It will return to its old site (4th Ave. and Butler) in fall 2013 and move into a brand new much larger building.

There are a few changes. First, the zone for PS 133 has gone away. The few blocks that made up the zone have been absorbed into the neighboring PS 282 zone. We don't know exactly how registration will be handled but it is likely that if there are more people applying than there are seats available that there will be a lottery for the seats. It is a big school to fill and there will be lots of seats available.

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ch-ch-ch-ch-changes in district 15 for fall of 2013

We have been waiting for word on several changes that are expected to land on the neighborhoods (particularly Park Slope) before the new year. It appears that the DoE is flying some trial balloons. Let me stress that nothing is set in stone yet! This should be decided by Jan. of 2013.

  • Here are the players: District 15 schools that are full to bursting (321, 39, 107)
  • District 13 school, PS 133, that is getting a brand new and lovely, large building on 4th Ave. and Butler on the border of Gowanus and Park Slope - is moving back to that new building in the fall of 2013
  • St. Thomas Aquinas School building on 4th Ave. and 8th St. where the students from PS 133 are being housed until their new building is done, will be vacant for a new program in fall of 2013.
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G&T at PS 32

When I made my way to Carroll Gardens to visit PS 32 last week I wondered, "has the DOE just placed a G&T classroom in a school that has room or have they found a fit in a school that can support the special needs of gifted and talented learners?"

I came away excited and energized by what I saw. Gifted and Talented programs should be more than just accelerated environments that keep bright kids from being bored. These learners are at the far end of the special needs spectrum and they have their own issues. A child reading at a fourth grade level in kindergarten is all good right?! But that forth grade book is dealing with themes far beyond the social development of the kindergartner. What about the child who has the ability to comprehend and write far above grade level but doesn't have the finger strength or fine motor control to actually do it? What about the child with extraordinary ability with numbers who is struggling with reading?

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107 wait-list

Parents of prospective PS 107 kindergarteners in the south slope have been waiting on pins and needles to find out if their children will have a seat in the school in fall of 2011. There has been a wait-list of over 40 families who have actively been lobbying for relief and assistance in finding appropriate seats for their kindergarteners. Parents feel that they were blindsided and weren't able to prepare for this last minute wait-listing. If they had some warning, they could have gotten on the wait-lists at nearby programs (which are currently closed), applied for lottery or independent programs and lobbied for changes that could helped the population at the school. They are not the only ones, according to different reports, PS 39 and 196 among others are over capacity with in-zone families. In the past the children from PS 196 have been the only District 15 population that the DOE has had to place in other schools. Last year they were sent to PS 172, PS 124, PS 32 and PS 94.

One of the points that the community has been making is that the school had petitioned to remove the one prek class in the building to accommodate the k overflow with a new kindergarten classroom. The request was denied, but it appears now that it may be moved to a separate location. There was movement a couple days ago when 25 children came off the list. Reports are unclear about whether the school consolidated an upper grade class to open up a new classroom or whether the prek will be moved. So far there has not been much movement from parents enrolling their children in private school. There may be some relief when the gifted and talented placements as well as lottery schools (BNS, the Children's School and the Charter schools) are made.

Because of capacity laws (only 110 children can occupy the cafeteria at a time) the kindergarten classes will eat lunch in their classrooms. Lunch shifts run from 10:30 to 1:10. Unfortunately, this is not unusual.

The DOE has responded to requests to come to Brooklyn to discuss local kindergarten enrollment with parents on Thursday, April 7th at 6pm in the John Jay  auditorium on 7th Ave. between 4th & 5th St.

public kindergarten application and 321

As you parents of prospective kindergarteners might know the city's timeline for Kindergarten registration begins next week.

From Jan. 10 to March 4 is the application period when neighborhood schools are getting a relatively informal head count of zoned families as well as getting an idea of how many out of zoned families might be interested in their program. After that, in March, letters will be sent out telling zoned families when to come in to "pre register"(unzoned families may be contacted but it is more likely that they will remain on a waitlist until later in the spring).

Occasionally, individual schools will have their own procedure. Now is a good time to begin touring schools and contacting their parent coordinators or main desk secretary to determine whether they are following the city's procedure or their own simplified version.

I have just talked to PS 321 and their procedure is a bit different. They are not taking applications starting on Jan. 10 so don't line up. This is not a first come first served process so don't panic. Within the next week or so, they will set dates, which will be listed on their website, to pick up a registration packet (to be filled out at home) and get an appointment to register (no application head count process). You can call or write Marge Raphaelson, their wonderful parent coordinator, ext. 1230 or the main office 718-499-2414 ext. 0 for information next week. They are trying to eliminate lines and stress for you and your prospective kindergartener.

brooklyn prospect charter's new home

It is finally revealed! Brooklyn Prospect Charter announced this week that they will be moving to new construction at 270 Douglass St. between Nevins and 3rd Ave. It looks like it will be across from the park in part of the space that the white roofed buildings occupy.

The design process has already begun for this fully dedicated, purpose built, permanent school facility and because they are building from the ground up the building will not be ready for the 2011 school year. They plan to move in for fall 2012 (that will be their first year with a 9th grade). They are working with the DOE to find interim space for the 6th, 7th and 8th graders next year. No word on where their one year temporary digs will be.

Click here for admission information

If you are interested in an information session on March 1, you can follow the link on their website or sign up here. They don't hold tours until after their April 5, 2011 lottery. Tours are available at that time to the parents of admitted students.

Check out the PreK at PS 15

I had a wonderful tour of PS 15 in Red Hook the other day given by their most excellent Parent Coordinator, Juanita LaBoy. She gave me all the open house information and I neglected to add it to the newsletter, so here it is:

Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010 at 9:30 am
71 Sullivan St. Brooklyn
for information: call Ms. LaBoy 347-563-5380

For those of you looking for a strong full day PreK option, this is definitely one to check out. The Prek lottery registration period begins on March 1.

Citywide Kindergarten Registration starts on Monday, February 1, 2010 through Friday, March 12, 2010. 
PS 15 Pre-registration for Kindergarten will be from 9:00 am to 11:45 am.  Any child born in 2005 is eligible to apply.  Parents need to bring birth certificate or passport, immunization record and proof of address.

Sunset Park HS campus

I just got back from touring the Sunset Park HS building.
It is everything that you would hope it would be, spacious, light, and beautiful. Three schools are housed there right now, Sunset Park HS which will grow at capacity to 1600 students (currently with a 9th grade), Brooklyn Prospect Charter (currently with a 6th grade) which will be housed there for two years before they find their permanent home and The Lillian Rashkis School, a district 75 program. I would recommend that all parents of 5th and 8th graders make time to tour the appropriate program housed in this building. They are worth a look.

There is a community barbecue celebrating the opening of Sunset Park HS tonight, Wed. between 5-8pm
The school is located at 35th St. between 3rd and 4th Ave.
Meet the administrators, teachers and students and tour the building.

Brooklyn Prospect Charter has its location!

Brooklyn Prospect Charter has announced that they will be located within the Sunset Park High School building in the fall of '09. Sunset Park HS will be in a brand new building on 35th St. and 4th Ave. in Sunset Park. The high school will be accepting 400 students next fall in their first year growing to 1600. So for the first couple of years there will be room in the building. Brooklyn Prospect was planning on accepting about 88 6th graders in their first year.

The Brooklyn Prospect Charter says, "We are grateful to Principal Corinne Vinal, Council Member Sara Gonzalez, the Center for Family Life Co-director, Julie Stein-Brockway, Community Board 7 and the Sunset Park High School Task Force who have worked tremendously hard in the creation of Sunset Park High School. We look forward to working closely with them to ensure a seamless collaboration and strong foundation for both schools."

You still have a couple of days to sign up for the Brooklyn Prospect Charter School's lottery. They are extending the deadline to April 5. If you can't do the registration on line call (718) 289-3174. This is an extension of the deadline. Go to their website to register. This does not effect the regular middle school application. It is an extra option. You have nothing to loose, and another option to gain.