more on pta fundraising with ps 295

You may have seen the NY Times article about changing neighorhoods and school fundraising. I truly admire PS 295's PTA for going to the mat for their school and their out of the box creative fundraising. Whether it is the Portrait Press Fundraising Projects, Beat the Blahs Winter Concert Series, or Touch a Truck - you don't have to be a student at the school to love community there. So get ready, Touch a Truck is BACK!

Sat. April 28 noon to 5pm, rain or shine $5 per person, plus food available for purchase
at PS 295, The Studio School of Arts & Culture, 18th St. (btwn 6th & 7th Ave.)

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brooklyn arbor, ps 414 in Williamsburg

I had a great interview yesterday with Eva Irizarry, the new Principal of Brooklyn Arbor, a public school program. The school, which will be also be known as PS 414, will be opening a kindergarten, first and second grade in the PS 19 building in the fall of 2012. PS 19's upper grades will be phasing out in the next couple years and new children entering the building will be attending Brooklyn Arbor. Zoned families can all be served at the school, but the zone also contains PS 319 and some zoned families choose to begin there at K. PS 19 was in its first year of a Magnet Grant. It looks as though the Grant, whose theme is "Global and Ethical Studies" may be split between PS 19 and Brooklyn Arbor. That is being confirmed shortly. The application period for in zone families will be extended to 3/16 for kindergarten, but there are many, many seats available for families from outside of zone and when approved shortly, magnet applications will be available for those families. Those applications can be made throughout the spring. They are having their first meet and greet at the Williamsburg Library 240 Division Ave. at Marcy Ave. on Friday 3/9 at 4:30. To confirm: or 718-935-3597 They will be scheduling more info sessions and are looking for interested parents and venues to spread the word.
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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.
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renzulli and school wide enrichment

Okay, a lot of schools are using Renzulli techniques and resources to help with their progressive approach to the classroom. Schools talk about "school wide enrichment" but it just sounds like a bunch of fun electives. What does it mean?

Here is a very clear and short (and funny) video to explain what a teacher is trying to do in a progressive classroom to serve the needs of different learners and get them engaged.

So what is "school wide enrichment" doing?

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beautiful school libraries from colleges and robin hood

I can't stop thinking about the photos of libraries that I saw on Flavorwires Most Beautiful College Libraries in the World.  I want the slideshow on my desktop. I want to send them to all 9th graders to encourage them to aspire to the life of the mind. I want to send them to all first year architecture students. I sent them to my librarian dad.
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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?
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pta: put this in your fundraising 'must do' folder for next year!

Do you want an eco-friendly/healthy/creative way for your school to raise funds and partner with organizations that help kids overseas go to school? Tired of buying cheap t-shirts, water bottles, wrapping paper and chocolate? Say yes (that chocolate isn't that good).

Check out This great system was developed at Brooklyn's own PS 295 by a local mom. A class or school can request a kit. The students create self-portraits that put their individual personalities and creativity at the heart of each fundraiser. This artwork is then printed on high quality, eco-friendly products like tea towels, pillow cases and tote bags. They even give you the marketing materials!

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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I realized a year or two ago that I haven't the faintest idea what my children's (almost adult) handwriting looks like. I can tell the difference at a quick glance between my parent's similar hands (frankly I could since I was little and scrutinizing Santa's package tags for clues to his origin). I can forge my husband's curlie q's (although I never would!). I remember being very proud when my Japanese Art History Professor (who taught calligraphy) complimented me on my handwriting.

My kids are super fast typists! The problem is that their handwriting is not practiced or fast and when it comes down to SAT and AP tests, they have to hand write quite a bit and it has to legible.

Is penmanship a dying art? Check out this interesting article in the NY Times, The Case for Cursive.

Many schools use "Handwriting Without Tears" to help early writers.

Does anyone know any other good handwriting resources?

PS 20 and Sean Keaton

 Inside schools just reported,

"Sean Keaton, former principal of PS 20 in Fort Greene, was acquitted in a Brooklyn court last week of "menacing in the third degree," a charge stemming from an altercation with a teacher in the principal's office in 2009, Department of Education officials confirmed. But the DOE would not say whether Keaton would return to his post or whether the interim acting principal, Lena Barbera, would stay.

 Go to for the rest of the story.

PS 110 in Greenpoint

PS 110 in Greenpoint is a great school.

  • an experienced and gifted principal who has been a teacher in the school for decades. She fosters collaboration with her talented staff and is very receptive to parents.
  • a beautiful new yard and computer lab
  • an energetic and creative science teacher who loves her subject and translates it to the kids. The first day they play with the materials to get familiar with them and guess what they may be about. The next day they start to work with the FOSS curriculum.
  • a long standing partnership with Mcgolrick Park where the students do planting and supplement their science curriculum.
  • music teacher who starts teaching with recorders, then the kids move to Music and the Brain on keyboards and then guitars
  • great dance program that includes ballroom dance, African dancing and drumming, Mark Morris and square dance
  • integrated art in the classrooms and a partnership with VTS (Visual Thinking Strategies) which used fine art to teach critical thinking skills
  • a new dual language French program starting in 2011 (4/29/11 - PS 110 has found a French teacher but there were not enough fluent French speakers to create a dual language classroom. They are currently working on making it a French enrichment)

What are you waiting for! There is a school tour scheduled for Mon. May 2 at 9am.

There may still be spots open for kindergarten. Head on over for pre-register before April 15, but if are interested after that, just call the school 718-383-7600 


ps 9 fights city hall and wins

PS 9, located at 80 Underhill Ave. has spent the past several years rallying the community and becoming the "go to" program in Prospect Heights for new families. All of this momentum seemed to be doomed when the city announced that they were phasing out MS 571, colocated in the building (not bringing in a new 6th grade in 2011), and adding Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School from outside of the district to the building. Since schools need to share facilities but don't use them at the same time, it would mean that strained facilities would now need to be shared between 3 programs, instead of 2. The DOE's plan was a very strangely inequitable allocation of space. From what I saw, the time allocated to the common spaces didn't correspond in any way to the numbers being served. What followed was months of contentious meetings.

A few days ago a group of parent advocates from PS 9 won an appeal to the New York State Commissioner of Education, David M. Steiner, requesting an annulment of the vote by the Panel on Education Policy (PEP). "The Commissioner found that the DOE did not comply with NY Education Law, and ordered that 'the resolution of the PEP approving the co-location of the Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School in the K009 building is annulled.' The Commissioner further ordered the 'DOE to be prohibited from moving forward with any aspect of the proposal regarding the co-location until the DOE complies with the requirements of the NY Education Law. Specifically, the Commissioner found that the DOE's Building Utilization Plan for the co-location failed to address 'how the proposed allocation of shared spaces ensures equitable and comparable use of impacted students.'"

Essentially, the DOE is back to square one. It would have to substantially revise its Building Utilization Plan and hold a new vote for proposal, which could still happen. What PS 9 now needs to do is to complete their plan for a k-8 expansion. For more information.

update on PS 133

I have been anxiously following the progress of PS 133. A new building is going up to accommodate the 300 seat K-5 school as well as 600 additional seats on 4th Ave. and Butler St. It is very unusual for the School Construction Authority to be late with a project, but the bad winter weather as well as drastic capital funding cuts have conspired to delay the opening until fall of 2013. This is a grave disappointment for the neighborhood which desperately needs more seats in both District 13 and 15 (the School Districts which provided the capital funds to build the school).

PS 133 is currently being housed in the St. Thomas Aquinas School building on 4th Ave. and 8th St. The good news is that the Archdiocese which had not been willing to discuss extending the lease on the St. Thomas Aquinas School building has agreed to extend the lease for an additional year. They have also said that they will negotiate for an ongoing lease to the building. Parents - now is the time to lobby for this building to become the Prek/Kindergarten Early Childhood Center that the district so desperately needs!

How do you do that? There is going to be a meeting with the DOE on Thurs. April 7, 6pm in the auditorium of John Jay HS to discuss local kindergarten overcrowding issues.

You should also contact the District 15 and District 13 CEC (Community Education Council). These are the community organizations that control zoning and are the parents' official voice to the DOE.
District 13
Kerry Ann Greene 718-636-3212
District 15 Romaine Smith 718-935-4267

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.

krazy k registration

Families in Brooklyn want to attend public school! That is the good news. Now the bad news - schools are finding that they don't have enough kindergarten seats to go around.

Here is the process in brief:
In the late winter (this year from Jan. 10 to March 4) is the application period. Schools offer tours and zoned families as well as out of zone families who want to try for a spot at the school must apply for a seat. This is NOT REGISTRATION. It is a head count (although a required one). The school has no idea before this application period of how many children might attend in the following year. It is also a time to build a wait-list of families who want to gain entry from outside of zone if they have seats left over.

From March 21 - March 25 the schools will notify in zone (and sometimes out of zone families if they have enough room) that there are spots open for them in kindergarten.

From March 28 to April 15, they schedule times for the families to come into the school with their child, their proofs of address, birth certificate and immunization records to PRE-REGISTER.

It is common practice for schools to save some small number of seats in reserve for in zone families that had no idea of the process, or for families who move into the zone after the application period is over through the spring and summer.

It is also true that the G&T process as well as the wait-lists for Charter and Unzoned schools move throughout the spring and families who have pre-registered at schools with register at the other programs and their seats will become available at the zoned schools and the wait-lists there will move. This is an ongoing process through the spring and summer.

What if you misunderstood the application process and didn't apply at your zoned school?
You will probably be placed on a wait-list at this time (don't panic), just because you are in between processes. Keep in touch with the school. It is likely after the first wave of registration happens that you will be brought in to register.

What if your zoned school says that they don't have room for you?

This has been a problem in Manhattan and other boroughs for a couple years and in Sunset Park in D15 last year. The popularity of the south slope schools is proving to be a problem for zoned families in PS 39 and 107 this year. Check out report , as well as report from last year.

I asked Manhattan school guru, Robin Aronow, what happened last year for families squeezed out of their zone. And this is what she told me:

"The way it has worked in Manhattan is that after April 15th, when pre-registration is over, the wait-lists will start to move.  BTW 40 is not a lot on a wait-list (unless families tend not to go to private school or G&T). Sometime in May, if a family still remains on a wait-list, the Office of Student Enrollment will make an alternate offer to a school in the neighborhood that has room.  The family can remain on the wait-list of the original zoned school until October of the start of kindergarten.  If the family has still not come off the zoned  school wait list by October 1st, the original zoned school may take no more students for that school year and everyone else who moves into the zone goes to the bottom of the wait list.  Prior to September of 1st grade, if there is space in the original zoned school for 1st grade, then families who were placed elsewhere will be called back in order of their original lottery number.  It is possible that there will still not be enough room for 1st grade.  However, my guess is everyone or almost everyone will be placed by September of kindergarten and most likely by 1st grade."

what if there is no buzz?

If you are looking for a school outside of your zone or you want to move to a neighborhood and don't want to pay top dollar to move to a highly sought after zone, what options do you have? Public schools don't have the time or money to do pr or branding. Sometimes they are lucky and a savvy parent or teacher will put together a snappy website, but if they don't have an enterprising individual to step up, the school may labor in obsurity. Parents might logically think that if the school is good they would have heard about it, but I am here to tell you that it doesn't have to be the case at all. If there is no buzz, it could still be a honey of a school.
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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.

PS 133 gets a French dual language program

I just got word through a parent that PS 133 (which is getting a new school building in 2012 on 4th Ave. and Butler) is getting a dual langage French/English program in one kindergarten class starting in 2011. There is going to be an open house at the school on Nov. 19 at 9am at their 211 8th St. (at 4th Ave.) location.

They will very likely have a language assessment, similar to the one at PS 58, to determine if a child can be considered a native speaker.

They are looking for a certified bilingual teacher - if you know of one, contact the Principal, Heather Foster-Mann 718-857-4810.