If emergency strikes, head to this Union Square high school

The Clinton School replaces Baruch College as a local evacuation center. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Clinton School at 10 East 15th Street has replaced the Baruch building on East 24th Street as the closest evacuation center for Gramercy residents for the 2017 coastal storm season, altering the location that has been in place for the neighborhood at least since Hurricane Irene in 2011.

Office of Emergency Management (OEM) press secretary Nancy Silvestri said that the evacuation centers are reevaluated every year to make sure the facilities are prepared to operate in the event of a disaster, and the previous site was swapped out for the Clinton School after discussions with Baruch and the City University of New York (CUNY).

Silvestri noted that the OEM has partnered with CUNY in the past to designate university buildings as evacuation centers but some of those sites were swapped out this year for various reasons.

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A.P. now P.S. 40’s principal for a year

Stephanie Lukas (Photo by Maya Rader)

Stephanie Lukas (Photo by Maya Rader)

By Maya Rader

In the coming 2016-17 school year at P.S. 40 elementary school, assistant principal Stephanie Lukas will assume the role of acting principal while Susan Felder, the current principal, takes part in a year-long fellowship program. Daria Agosta, a fifth grade teacher, will take over as assistant principal in Lukas’s stead.

Lukas has been assistant principal for ten years. Before she came to P.S. 40, she taught kindergarten uptown, first at P.S. 151 and then at P.S. 165. The latter had a partnership with the Professional Development School program, meaning professors from Columbia University’s Teachers College would come to Lukas’s classroom to do research. In turn, Lukas received student teachers and could take free classes at Teachers College. Through her school’s connection to the college, Lukas worked with many other teachers and education professionals on joint projects, including co-teaching a seminar for people going into education. Lukas said that from this experience she saw, “that you can have an impact without just being in the classroom.”

Lukas and Felder knew each other before Lukas interviewed for the job of assistant principal at P.S. 40. When Lukas was working at P.S. 165, Felder worked at a school nearby. Felder worked with new teachers as a literary staff developer, so she would sometimes bring new teachers into Lukas’s kindergarten classroom to observe.

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Stuyvesant Town dad: Rezoning put my kids in different schools

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

When Paul and Allison Walsh sent their daughter Jane to PS 40 for pre-K in 2003, they never thought there would be any problems sending the rest of their children there, especially since they haven’t moved from their apartment at 17 Stuyvesant Oval in 18 years.

Jane Walsh, 15;  Gavin Walsh, 12; and Nora Walsh will be 5 in June

Jane Walsh, 15; Gavin Walsh, 12; and Nora Walsh will be 5 in June

But now that their youngest daughter Nora is going into kindergarten this coming fall, the family has discovered that there won’t be a spot for her in the popular elementary school because, even though their address was in District 2 when they moved into their apartment, they are now in District 1, according to information from the Department of Education.

In between their oldest and youngest daughters, the Walshes had a son, Gavin, and the first signs of zoning troubles appeared when they tried to enroll him in the school in 2007. Although it wasn’t a problem for Jane to gain admission, Paul said that when they sent in the application for Gavin, they received a call from the school’s principal, noting that 17 Stuyvesant Oval was no longer in District 2.

They were able to get a zoning variance for him to attend because their daughter was still enrolled at the time, but since their son graduated from PS 40 in June 2013, the system effectively views them as a purely District 1 family now, even though Paul noted that they’ve spent the past ten years building relationships in the PS 40 community and have had two children in the school.

Although the zoning line between District 2 and District 1 for elementary schools seems to fall evenly at East 14th Street on the DOE’s online maps, the reality is more complicated. The line actually cuts through Stuyvesant Town around East 18th Street, putting a number of buildings in the complex in District 1 with the majority in District 2.

A memo that the Department of Education released in 2007 further complicated the line, noting that the DOE had been using incorrect information to make school assignments since 1984 for certain buildings in Stuyvesant Town. The memo said that the other odd-numbered buildings in 11 to 21 Stuyvesant Oval, which had been incorrectly assigned to PS 40, were actually zoned for PS 19 in District 1 and that the odd-numbered buildings in 239 to 273 Avenue C, also previously assigned to PS 40, were zoned for PS 61 in District 1.

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Letters to the Editor, Apr. 17

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Tests failed students, not the other way around

The following letter, written by two public school principals last week, has been circulated around school communities in Education District 2.

Dear District 2 Colleagues,

Community School District 2 represents a richly diverse group of school communities and it is not often these days that we have an opportunity to join in a shared effort. Last week, and for several weeks prior, every one of our schools devoted hours of instructional time, vast human resources, and a tremendous amount of effort to preparing students to do well on the NYS ELA exams and, ultimately, to administering them.

Few of our students opted out, in part because we had high hopes, and, perhaps mistakenly, assured families that this year’s exam would reflect the feedback test makers and state officials had received from educators and families regarding the design of the test following last year’s administration.  Our students worked extremely hard and did their very best.  As school leaders, we supported teachers in ensuring that students and families kept the tests in perspective – they were important, but by no means the ultimate measure of who they are as readers, students, or human beings. We encouraged them to be optimistic, and did our best to do the same.  Frankly, many of us were disappointed by the design and quality of the tests and stood by helplessly while kids struggled to determine best answers, distorting much of what we’d taught them about effective reading skills and strategies and forgoing deep comprehension for something quite different.

On Friday morning, Liz Phillips, the principal of PS321 in Brooklyn, led her staff and her parent community in a demonstration objecting, not to testing or accountability, but to these tests in particular and, importantly, to their high stakes nature and the policy of refusing to release other than a small percentage of the questions.

By Friday evening officials were dismissing the importance of their statement, claiming that Liz and her community represented only a tiny percentage of those affected, implying that the rest of us were satisfied.  Given the terribly high stakes of these tests, for schools, for teachers and for kids, and the enormous amount of human, intellectual and financial resources that have been devoted to them, test makers should be prepared to stand by them and to allow them to undergo close scrutiny.

We propose that we hold a somewhat larger demonstration, making sure our thoughts on this are loud and clear and making it more difficult to dismiss the efforts of one school.  On Friday morning, April 11, at 8 a.m. we will invite our families and staff to speak out in a demonstration at each of our schools, expressing our deep dissatisfaction with the 2014 NYS ELA exam.  We are inviting you to join us in this action, by inviting your staff and community to join in helping to ensure that officials are not left to wonder whether or not we were satisfied.

Yours truly,

Adele Schroeter,
Principal, PS59
Lisa Ripperger,
Principal, PS234

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Push for new school at Police Academy

Police Academy building on East 20th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Police Academy building on East 20th Street (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Neighborhood residents are renewing the push to have the Police Academy building on East 20th Street converted into a school. Community Board 6 passed a resolution in 2008 from the Youth and Education Committee proposing the change and board members are again urging the city to revisit the issue because the academy will be leaving the space soon.

The 2008 resolution noted that the building, located at 235 East 20th Street, would be ideal for a school because it already contains classroom space, an auditorium and a gymnasium and there is a need in the neighborhood for more public school seats.

The board’s Land Use and Waterfront committee discussed the possible conversion in a meeting last Wednesday evening, bringing the issue up again because the police academy is expected to move to Queens by the end of next year, vacating the space on East 20th Street.

Residents at the meeting said they wanted to discuss the possibility of a public school not only because the city needs the seats for students but also to prevent the land from being sold to private developers for luxury high-rises.

“(The NYPD) needs to transfer the property to the Department of Education,” CB6 Vice Chair Ellen Imbimbo said. “So many properties have been sold out from under us with little or no notice with no opportunity to recast the transaction.”

A neighborhood resident suggested that a Department of Education official tour the facility to assess the feasibility of such a project and most at the meeting agreed that action needed to be taken because the DOE has not yet commented on whether or not the building could become a public school.

The committee will be drafting a letter to send to the DOE but the issue will not be reviewed by Community Board 6 again until the next full board meeting in January.

“It would make a wonderful high school or intermediate school,” resident Jim Collins said of the facility. “Yes, it’s beat up, but the cost of cleaning this space up is relatively de minimis compared to building a new school.”

CECD2 to hold meeting on opening of new school

Community Education Council District 2 has announced that it will be holding a Zoning Committee meeting on Wednesday, June 6 at 6:30 p.m. to explore zoning issues for 2012-2013, including the opening of a new school P.S. 281 at 35th Street and First Avenue.

The meeting will be held in the P.S. 40 auditorium (20th Street between First and Second Avenues).

The agenda will include:

  1. Review of the P.S./I.S. 281 facility
  2. Discussion of the possible grade configuration of the building
  3. Discussion of programming for building (Pre-K, G&T, Language, etc.)
  4. Review of zoning milestones and timeline
  5. Public comments

Public comment is welcome on P.S. 281 as well as all District 2 zoning matters.

For more information on CECD2, which has an advisory role in DOE issues, visit the board’s website.