when your beloved principal leaves

This happens from time to time. You are impressed by a principal or kindergarten teacher or PTA and are thrilled to get a seat in the school and then you find out that that person is retiring or moving on. What does that mean for the program? You should never pick a school because of any one person, or just by the test scores, or because of a program or grant. There are many factors that should go into your determination of a good school for your child. Stats famously fluctuating, budgets are cut, grants run out and staff (no matter how much you feel that you depend on them) have their own lives.
Read More

public high school choice rant

Forgive me for too many CAPS ahead of time.

I have been hearing a lot about the "second round" this year, like you get another shot at the choice you want late in the spring. GUYS! the DOE doesn't work that way!! The "supplemental round" is for students who have NOT RECEIVED ANY CHOICE in the main round. Your placement in the main round is where your child will attend for freshman year, no ifs ands or buts. The students in the supplemental round get to choose from the schools that have seats still available.

But "ah ha!", you say, "what about the Specialized HS kids who get to choose between a two schools?! Aren't the schools that they don't take from the main round left over in the supplemental round?" NO!!! everyone (who has placed a seriously good number of good fit schools) is placed in the main round and all the schools get "over offers" -many more students than they can hold. The DOE has historical data from years of experience how many kids are going to take their Specialized HS seats (or private school, etc.) and how many are taking their 1-12 list seats. If a few more kids choose the Specialized HS, the classes are a little fuller there, but all the seats at the highly sought after, selective schools are still full, full, full. The process this year is NO DIFFERENT than previous years. The DOE always ran the WHOLE algorithm before the Specialized round placements where announced. They have always known in early Feb. where EVERYONE is placed. They just didn't release the info, because they did that New School Fair, and students had the option to add a new program to their list before they got their results. The problem was that the conspiracy theories abounded AND it pushed the supplemental and appeals process way too late in the year. This is a process that handles upwards of 90,000 kids a year. They will not entertain picking and chosing in a second round and if you are banking on getting no choice so that you can pick off Beacon or another favorite in a "second round" you are taking a bad gamble with your child's future.

how to: the nyc high school fair

Sat. 9/24 and Sun. 9/25 from 10am to 3pm at Brooklyn Tech HS.
If you think that you will just go and browse the 11 floors and 400 schools and come up with a good list of schools to tour you are living in a dream world.

I recommend that you go with a list of your favorites and your "maybes". Start with your maybes. This day designed to help you figure out which ones you really want to tour and ones that may not be the best fit. Talk to the students from the schools - they may surprise you, in a great way.

Go to your favorites and ask the tough questions:
"my child has great scores but 12 latenesses, will you consider him?" "you are a screened school that takes grades of 90 and above but my child has an 88 in two classes, are we wasting our time listing your school?"
"my child is a tap dancer, and wants to try for your dance program; does he need to prepare a ballet audition even if it is not his strongest style?"

The schools are there, but so are all the Office of Enrollment personnel. Do you want the algorithm described in detail? Do you want to button hole the Director of Enrollment and ask a tough question? This is your opportunity!

You should have a list of your schools and your questions ready before you go. If your child is very interested in this process, they should attend with you, but keep in mind that it is an exhausting mad house and if it will only gross out or freak out your student, leave them at home. That way you will have an opportunity to ask the inconvenient questions that you don't want them to hear. Then take them on the tours. They will be much more interested. You should have a plan and get in and out before you pass out from exhaustion - a couple hours at most - and then go for brunch and a stiff drink in lovely Ft. Greene.

schoolfest in williamsburg and greenpoint

Town Square's Schoolfest, the wonderful annual school "open house" is being held on Sat. September, 17 from noon to 4pm

in the Harry Van Arsdale Campus, 257 N. 6th St. near Driggs Ave. (home to Brooklyn Prep High School, Williamsburg HS for Architecture and Design and Williamsburg Prep).

There will be a wealth of local programs represented. They invite all schools, day care to high school - private and public, in Williamsburg/Greenpoint, to a single venue to promote their schools and programs. 50 schools and organizations are coming!

I will also be there doing seminars sponsored by Schoolfest.
12:00 Prek and Kindergarten Application Process
1pm Middle School Application Process
2pm High School Application Process

I got a call today from a very happy kindergarten parent, whose child is in the dual language French program at PS 110. This program will be recruiting interested families for next year as will the growing dual language Spanish program at PS 84. Come and check out those as well as all the other wonderful neighborhood options.

getting organized for school with urban clarity

I asked the wonderful organizer and Brooklyn mom, Amanda Wiss, of Urban Clarity to give me some tips for organizing for back to school.
For your nursery school scholar: Take a moment now to create a place for all the incoming artwork. It can be a drawer, a shelf, an oversized inbox or a large portfolio. Make it THE landing spot for your budding Picasso’s. When you want to display a few gems in your house or to send some to grandparents, it’ll be a snap. And you’ll thank me when glitter hasn’t invaded every nook and cranny of your living space. Want a super cool product to corral the art?
Read More

valuable high school choice information

The DOE has announced that they are doing an abbreviated series of high school talks this summer. In the past some of these have been very enlightening. The specialized high school talk has principals from each school representing, which is interesting. Although Stanley Teitel, the principal at Stuy (a physics teacher) does his extraordinary English and Social Studies Depts a disservice by making Stuy sound like only a science and math school (which it definitely is NOT). The talk that I thought had the most real meat for families who really needed details was the Art Audition talk. They had a panel of arts specialists from several schools who talk about what to prepare, how to present, what to think about, what to talk about and what to bring. This year they have condensed it and combined it with the screened high school talk. Pity.

They prepared a wonderful handout which I hope that they will distribute, if not, you can download it here.

The screened school handout.

I blogged my very specific notes from the workshop last year and I have tips above and beyond the handout here.

I am giving a "High School Choice: Calm and Clear" talk on August 15, 7-9pm at Hootenanny Art House, but you must buy a ticket or let me know that you are coming so that I can make sure there are enough seats.

My talks are different than what the DOE does because:

  • the DOE has to give information for everybody - my talks are focused on college bound students living and attending school in Brooklyn and Manhattan. 
  • the DOE is talking about policy and the way things are supposed to be, I am talking about the way things are and how to manage it.
  • the DOE has to be balanced in their presentation of all schools, I can talk about the pros and cons of different environments and options.
  • I talk about how to do this in a practical way, "first, rip these pages out of the book... this is worth doing/this isn't...pay attention to this/this means nothing"

She's talking about High School again

If you are sticking your head in the sand this summer, you better be at the beach, because you can come to my High School Choice: Calm and Clear talk and stop fumbling in the dark and go into the fall with a plan! Let your friends know about this talk; whether you have had the bejezzas scared out of you at your middle school this spring, or you are an independent school lifer who is thinking about dipping your toe into the swirling surf that is the NYC Public School System, you really need to come to this talk.

Even though it is scarey, time consuming and not always easy, I love the high school search.

Read More

Valedictorians have hotdogs with Mayor Bloomberg

Since Murrow is a "non competitive" school there was no mention made at graduation of the fact that my brilliant young relative was Salutatorian (knowledge is its own reward - I really believe that - although she is not so sure - file that under "life lesson"). She did get an invite from the Mayor to come to Gracie Mansion for hotdogs with all the other lovely valedictorians and salutatorians from high schools all over the city. But that is not what I want to talk about...
Read More

words of wisdom from the last parent / teacher conference ever

I have made it through 284 parent teacher conferences (give or take a couple). I know that I am extremely lucky to have children who are focused students. Sometimes I went to the conference to understand the curriculum, clarify homework policy, eyeball the interesting character that my child was doing impressions of, offer support, but mostly it was a pathetic ploy to hear nice things about my kids, and sometimes to bask in reflected praise. I will say again, emphatically, that I KNOW how lucky I am. So what is the parent of a graduating senior doing showing up at school in May? I told the teachers to put away the grade book for a minute and give me their parting words of wisdom for a college bound student. I was moved by their advice.
Read More

khalil gibran middle school

Khalil Gibran Middle School, a dual language Arabic middle school that opened under a cloud of protests and unfortunately lost their founding principal in a media furor is being phased out. It is going to serve students in grades 9-12. It will be moving from its current location in PS 287 near the Navy Yard to K806 on Schermerhorn St. where it will be sharing a building with Metropolitan Corporate Academy (being phased out in June 2014) and Brooklyn School for Career Development.

Bed-Stuy Patch has the story.

Beacon's new home...eventually

This has been in the wind for years. Beacon is a very popular HS on the upper west side that takes kids from all over the city. They have been cramped into a building on W. 61 St. for years. School officials plan to move Beacon to new construction on the north side of W. 43rd St. that is currently used by the NY Public Library for document storage. It will be a 3 year long construction project. The new home for the school will expand capacity to 1400 students.

2011 Stuyvesant Sing!

Seniors Win!

It was not a fait accompli. The first performance was an unmitigated disaster by all accounts but they tightened the timing and changed the ending and by the last night it was a rollicking good time!

At Stuyvesant there are 3 Sing! contenders, Frosh/Soph, Juniors and Seniors. The Frosh/Soph theme of "searching for a theme" may have proven to be too "meta", and the snappy little quest script was high jacked by a sub plot about the evil Juniors stealing their "Fairy Tale" premise and making it Junior Nursery Rhymes. Considering that they are just dipping their toes into this amazing tradition, they did admirably well.

The Junior's Nursery Rhyme show was full of clever scenery. Jack and Jill's house with the fall away front was very original. The singing was strong and the characters were clever (although I didn't figure out that the narrarator with the puffy pants sitting on the piece of "Alice in Wonderland Wall" was Humpty Dumpty). My bad. In the end, the pacing was just too slow and I never really got down to enjoying the ride.

Read More

2011 murrow sing

When my kids were tiny and people used to say, "they grow up so fast!" I didn't know what the heck they were talking about. It was taking FOREVER! But now I get it. We just cleared another milestone, the last Senior/Fresh "Sing!" at Murrow. I have a terrible time trying to explain "Sing!" to middle school parents. It is a competition. It should really be called "Scream!". Depending on the school, it is two or three original nearly hour long student produced musicals which are judged and awarded bragging rights on the last night of performance. It is a super big deal.
Read More

letter day 2011

Public school students who have taken the Specialized HS test (SHSAT) or auditioned for LaGuardia will receive announcements about their placements today, Friday 2/11. Occasionally there are short delays of the delivery of letters to the private schools. The students will receive a letter at the end of the day at school in person. If they are offered a seat at one of the Specialized HS or LaGuardia they should also receive an offer from their 1 in 12 application, although on rare occasions they may find the 1 in 12 app school missing.

The Specialized HS will schedule open houses (lickety split next week, because the week after is the President's Week break). You should make a copy of the letter with your decision checked off before you give it back to your guidance counselor to submit on or before Feb. 28.

If your child is not offered a seat at this time, the main round results will be out on March 31.
DOE calendar http://schools.nyc.gov/ChoicesEnroll...ar/default.htm

This is also the weekend of the New HS Fair. The Fair will be on Sat. 12 and Sun. 13 10am to 1pm at the Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus 122 Amsterdam Ave. 10023. Students who want to add a school or two, or private school students who have found that they will not be attending their current school next fall should go to the fair, get an application and make sure and submit the application by Feb. 28. The New School Directory is available online:

Good luck to one and all.


Millennium Brooklyn at the John Jay Campus

On Tuesday, Jan. 11 at 6pm at the John Jay Campus on 7th Ave. at 4th St. there will be a public hearing to discuss the co-location of Millennium Brooklyn in the John Jay Campus.

On Wednesday, Jan. 19 at 6pm at Brooklyn Tech High School at South Elliott St. between DeKalb and Fulton there will be a Panel For Education Policy (PEP) vote on the co-location.

If you are interested in this issue you need to attend and speak up on the matter.

The DOE's proposal is outlined here.

And I have included this passage from their statement:

While there is not an immediate need to create additional high school seats in Brooklyn, the community has made the DOE aware of the need to provide more high-quality high school options. Allocating underutilized space to open a new selective high school in Brooklyn would expand the range of options available to students and families, and, in the long-run, would increase the number of students retained in the borough. Over the last few years the number of students enrolled in Brooklyn high schools has steadily declined, suggesting that students and families are seeking options outside of the borough that are better matched to their interests and needs. All students deserve access to an outstanding education regardless of their zip code. The DOE is committed to investing in schools that optimize student performance and ensure that every student graduates from high school equipped with the skills necessary to achieve success in college, careers, and in life.

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.

Millennium 2

New High Schools are always coming online and are usually announced shortly before the New HS Fair in Jan. but news of Millennium II has leaked so Lisa Gioe made an announcement to her parents at MS 447 Math and Science District 15 last night.

Millennium 2 will be opening in the John Jay HS complex on 7th Ave. and 4th St. in Park Slope in Sept. 2011 with Lisa Gioe as principal. It will be a replication of the popular Millennium HS with the addition of an ASD NEST program like the one that has been instituted at 447. I believe that this may be the first program of its kind in a HS. It will also be an "advanced Exploratory Program supporting internships". It will not be a choice on the Main Round application. If you would like to add the school to your list of HS you can do it during the short period after the New HS Fair in Jan. when you are allowed to resubmit the application and add new programs that will be starting in fall. 

Currently MS 447 has two very experienced Assistant Principals, Sharon Mahabir, who has been with the school since its founding and Dawn Faraj who had also been the Math Coach and a long time asset to the school. One of them will likely be tapped for the 447 principal's job.

It will be interesting to see if the Millennium brand will draw more local families to the John Jay building. I am also concerned for the lovely and focused students from Research that I heard speak recently in support of their school. A co-location is always a rocky process, but it doesn't necessarily have to be one that harms the existing schools. I hope that all the programs will grow in strength with the attention that will be directed to the building.

the harbor school

I got out of bed at the crack of dawn to head to the Governor's Island Ferry yesterday. I have been anxious to see the new Harbor School building. I wondered what kids who are always a little late in the morning would do with a "be there or wait an hour for a ferry" schedule. I finished the tour at 11 totally in love with the kids, staff and curriculum. As the parent of seniors, who sees college essay themes everywhere I look, I couldn't help but think of the great story these kids will tell. I dare you not to tear up when you watch this video about the school.
Read More