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Archive for the 'Education' Category

Sunny Skies

Source: Sunny Skies

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the preliminary recipients of $340 million in pre-kindergarten funding yesterday. While none are in the Bensonhurst area, there are two in Borough Park - Mothers Love and Sunny Skies DC Corp.

Provided state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli approves the awards, Mothers Love (1681 49th Street) will land $214,287 from the state and Sunny Skies DC (4228 10th Avenue) will receive $500,000 as part of a program that is awarding hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for 81 school districts and community-based organizations across the state.

The funding, which is included in the 2014-15 state budget, is the first installment in the governor’s commitment to invest $1.5 billion over the next five years to build a statewide universal full-day pre-kindergarten program.

The city Department of Education is slated to land nearly $300 million to build its universal pre-kindergarten program for all 4-year-olds in the city – which stems from Cuomo’s promise to pay for such a program in lieu of Mayor Bill de Blasio raising taxes to pay for it, as the mayor had originally aimed to do upon taking office.

The funds slated for private daycare operators are to fill the gap in the number of seats required to meet the need, which the Department of Education alone does not have the space for.

“Training and educating young minds is one of the smartest investments we can make as a state, as studies demonstrate that pre-kindergarten has a long lasting, positive influence on our children’s education and future success,” Cuomo said in his press release. “The state budget this year included a major investment in early education, putting New York state on the path to become just the fourth state in the nation to establish universal full day pre-K. The awards we are announcing today will enable tens of thousands of children to attend pre-K classes, and represent another step in the State’s work to prepare our students to compete in the 21st century economy.”

As part of state and city officials push for a full-day pre-kindergarten program, numerous lawmakers and educators, including Cuomo and de Blasio, stressed that studies have shown that children who participate in early education programs are more likely to read at grade level and graduate from high school than those who do not.

“We are proud to have Governor Cuomo as a strong partner in making pre-K for All a reality for the children of New York City,” de Blasio said in the same release. “This funding represents a powerful commitment by the State to build a new, stronger education foundation that will transform our schools. We are working tirelessly to make good on this opportunity to deliver new pre-K options, improve existing ones and build a high-quality system that lifts up every child.”

The full list of recipients of the $340 million is available here.

school classroom by Dan Nguyen

A new, more inclusionary approach to educate NYC students with special needs is proving easier said than done, says a new report by Chalkbeat. The organization spoke to students, parents, and school officials and found that schools are struggling to implement mandatory reforms to special education, while its effect on students is still unproven.

Integrating special needs students by enrolling them in general education classes, mixed classes (including typical and special needs students), or a combination of the two, was an idea first publicly introduced in 2003 by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The proposal was launched as a pilot at a limited number of city schools in 2010, and launched citywide in 2012. Chalkbeat, though, found that some schools lacked the resources and the scramble to implementation is leaving some of the neediest students behind.

Students affected by this Special Education Reform and interviewed by Chalkbeat each had unique experiences, some positive, some not. They include Joseph, a middle schooler with ADHD who was placed in mixed classes as per the city’s new policies, and for whom no purely special education classes were available when attempts to mainstream proved unsuccessful; Noah, whose mother Britt Sady pushed for his inclusion in a general education class so as to set higher standards for his learning and increase his chances of graduation; Christon Solomon, a middle schooler who says small learning sessions in special education classes work better for him than general education; and Thomas, who was suspended often in special education classes, but is doing better since being introduced to mainstream and mixed classes.

The experiences of parents and kids profiled are diverse, as are the abilities of the schools discussed to see that students’ needs are met–often, says Chalkbeat, schools simply aren’t provided with adequate staffing or financial resources to abide by the 2012 reforms. This is the case with Joseph–whose transfer to another school was finally approved only near the end of the school year, and presumably because his mother Clara, who works for the Department of Education, came armed with a certain amount of knowledge regarding red tape.

“Sometimes, if the parent doesn’t question [a school's inadequate handling of a special needs child's education], it just goes under the radar,” family advocate Olga Vazquez, of mental illness and developmental disability service support agency ICL, told the publication.

Certain schools are benefitting from reforms more than others. The article says funding is disproportionately doled out to schools with integrated classrooms instead of simply general and special education ones, and parents of both typical and special needs students at Harlem’s P.S. 112, for example, have requested mixed classes to enhance their kids’ educational experiences.

However the jury is still out, quantitatively speaking, on the effectiveness of integrating kids of different abilities into the same classrooms. Chalkbeat says some test scores have increased marginally, but others have not. What does appear to be clear is a widening discrepancy in disciplinary action being handed down to special needs students in mainstream classrooms, but DOE Deputy Chancellor Corinne Rello-Anselmi says Chancellor Carmen Fariña has no plans to overhaul the 2012 reforms.

If you’re an New York City educator or parent, what’s your take on the matter? Have you run into any of the problems stated in Chalkbeat’s article, or seen students improve under new policies? Should properly run mixed classrooms benefit all students–and what would running them properly entail of schools, teachers, and the DOE? How would funding and resources be distributed if you had it your way?

Photo by Dan Nguyen


The following is a press release from Cablevision:

With a focus on promoting reading and literacy, Cablevision’s Optimum and Madison Square Garden today brought the 8th Annual Knicks Summer Reading Program to P.S. 112 for young campers (ages 6-10) attending the Neighborhood Improvement Association (NIA) Summer Day Camp. Participating in the event was New York State Senator Martin Golden, along with former NBA superstar and Knicks Alumni Relations and Fan Development Advisor John Starks.

After welcoming remarks, Senator Golden and John Starks spoke about the importance of literacy. They also read aloud from the popular children’s book, Allie’s Basketball Dream by Barbara E. Barber. Following the reading, the children took part in a fun, interactive quiz about the book and participated in a raffle and autograph session. The children were also given a copy of the book discussed.

“Reading not only teaches it stimulates the imagination, strengthens self-confidence and fosters creativity, providing lifelong rewards,” said Senator Golden. “I congratulate Optimum and Madison Square Garden for this innovative program that engages young minds in such a positive way and helps instill a love of literature in students from an early age.”

“For eight years, Cablevision, in conjunction with Madison Square Garden has promoted reading programs in the communities we serve through its Summer Reading initiative,” said Jennifer Ostrager, Cablevision Vice President of Public Affairs. “Programs such as this serve as a catalyst for instilling a lifelong love of reading.”

Targeted to children ages 6-12, the Knicks Summer Reading initiative consists of a series of reading events at libraries, camps and community centers throughout the New York/New Jersey metro area. The program encourages reading through the use of incentives and is highlighted by book giveaways, ticket raffles, free t-shirts and read-aloud events with Knicks alumni and elected officials at select locations.

Photo by Teri Brennan

Lane Rosen, right, with Dewey’s student scientists. Photo by Teri Brennan

The waters around New York City were once home to a thriving population of oysters, which served an important ecological role. After virtually disappearing in the 20th century, several efforts are underway to bring the species back.

Students of John Dewey High School (50 Avenue X) Marine Science program are on the front-lines of the revitalization effort in Gravesend Bay, monitoring a collection of oyster beds off of the 69th Street Pier in Bay Ridge.

The school teamed up with the Harbor School’s Billion Oyster Project, one of the organizations leading the oyster reef restorations around New York Harbor. Oysters, which work like living water filters, are a vital component to improving the water quality around New York City, and the reefs they form protect the shoreline by weakening waves and provide habitat to other marine life.

They were once abundant in our area, but vanished almost completely in the early 20th century as pollution, over-harvesting, disease and environmental hazards grew. New York City was developing, and as the population boomed so did the amount of sewage.

One of the oyster cages monitored by Dewey students. (Photo by Teri Brennan)

One of the oyster cages monitored by Dewey students. (Photo by Teri Brennan)

Thanks to new regulations implemented in the late 20th Century, water quality has seen a dramatic improvement and researchers are finding that the area can once again support the oysters, which were not just an environmental helper, but a staple of the New York City economy as it developed.

Restoration efforts began on a sizable scale back in 2009. As their initial pilot sites showed signs of success, organizations backing them began finding new sources of funding to grow the project – ultimately creating the goal of bringing one billion oysters back to the harbor over the next 20 years.

The team of Dewey students were on-site in Bay Ridge last Wednesday, pulling in cages and doing their regular checkups. Their teacher, Lane Rosen, said it’s a great way to teach them about marine biology and ecology in a living laboratory in a hands-on way.

The cages are moored to the eco-dock attached to the pier, and students collect data on growth and development of the oysters, analyze the water and make observations that are sent to the Harbor School for further analysis.

We look forward to the point when the reefs are not only self-sustaining, but able to be harvested (in a population-sensitive way) for fresh, tasty slurping.



A middle school teacher at P.S. 163 in Bath Beach (109 Bay 14th Street) has started a fundraiser on the crowd-sourcing site (think Kickstarter for educators) to raise money for a new sound system in his disadvantaged school.

The teacher, Michael Wengler, who has been at the school for six years, depicts a talented student body whose performances are hampered by weak audio equipment. He writes:

We have a great group of students that come from low income families. They love music! The school community turns out for fantastic shows put on by our music students. The children have been invited to perform at some of our city’s top music halls! The students are very talented!… This equipment will help our chorus, solo singers, band, orchestra, solo instrumentalists, glee and guitar club be heard.

While those kids are good, Mr. Wengler said the equipment isn’t – you can’t even hear the performers when they’re using a microphone, he writes. The project costs, including optional donations to support, amount to $1,128.12 – of which $20 has been donated so far. The costs account for two audio racks, 400 feet of speaker cable, and two four space rack bags.

Mr. Wengler’s past fundraising initiatives raised money for student costumes as well as saxophone and clarinet reeds for the band and a professional piano tuner. This time he’s aiming high, asking for the biggest collective donation yet.

Back in my day (I say with my cane and 24 seasoned years of life experience) we choristers performed with crummy auditorium acoustics, and we liked it. But those were the days before newfangled crowdsourcing sites, and also our chorus was pretty bad.

This sounds like a genuinely good cause – to which I say, donate away! You’ll make a lot of future stars happy. From the looks of it, these kids have got talent to spare:

– Sam Shokin

Source: jeweledlion/Flickr

The following is a press release from the offices of Councilman David Greenfield:

Councilman David G. Greenfield urges all parents with children turning age four in 2014 to take advantage of the expanded free Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) programs being offered by the New York City Department of Education (DOE) in local yeshivas and other community organizations this upcoming school year. Parents must apply for a spot before the June 26th enrollment deadline.

UPK is a free early education program available to all children in New York City who turn four years old in 2014.  The program is offered either as a half-day (two hours and 30 minutes) or full-day (six hours and 20 minutes). Half-day programs may take place in the morning or afternoon. UPK is offered at public schools but also at community based early childhood centers, such as yeshivas. Yeshivas across Borough Park and Flatbush have been offering limited UPK programs for years. This upcoming school year will bring more available seats to these neighborhoods than ever before.

Expanding New York City’s UPK programs was a key goal for Mayor de Blasio upon taking office this January. Before the program’s roll out, Councilman Greenfield worked closely with the mayor to ensure that the unique needs of the yeshiva community were met. The DOE is working to put the 300 million dollars the state government allocated to expanding UPK into action, creating programs for children at both public schools and other educational institutions such as yeshivas. Now is the time for parents to take advantage of this expanded opportunity for childcare and education.

“The benefits children receive when enrolled in early education programs are immeasurable. Universal Pre-Kindergarten provides the opportunity for children to develop and strengthen the educational foundations needed to succeed in upcoming school years,” said Councilman David G. Greenfield, “I strongly urge every parent to take advantage of this program for their children’s future and apply today.”

The open enrollment period for UPK will end on Thursday, June 26th. Parents can continue to enroll their children until programs are full, but those who enroll by this date will be more likely to receive their first choice placement. Most UPK providers admit students on a first-come, first-served basis, and some programs do reserve seats for children already enrolled at the centers as three-year-olds. Local organizations with open enrollment include Yeled V’Yalda located at 1257 38th Street.

Parents may find a full and current list of centers that offer UPK by calling 311 and providing their zip codes or street address or online at Once parents have chosen a UPK provider they can apply for placement online at  For more information or questions on how to enroll parents may call 311 or contact an Early Childhood Education Field Office.  The Brooklyn/Staten Island office contact is: Chris McKay at 718-643-1173 x or Carol Berg at

P.S. 97 (Source: Google Maps)

P.S. 97 (Source: Google Maps)

Students, parents and teachers converged in front of Highlawn Elementary School P.S. 97 (1855 Stillwell Avenue) on Monday in hopes of saving the job of acting principal Maria Famoso.

News 12 reports that the Department of Education is pushing the 18-year veteran of the school out the doors for, according to opponents of the decision, “no apparent reason.”

Famoso became acting principal in October, after serving as assistant principal for nearly two decades.

Now she’ll either be reassigned to another school or forced to retire.

“Why take her out? What has she done that you want to take her out?” one parent said to News 12.

Councilman Mark Treyger, a school teacher before taking office this January, has joined the fight, telling the station, “to simply leave people in the dark and not to have any type of communication or engagement, that’s unacceptable and I won’t stand for that.”

The Department of Education has not yet told the school community who will serve as principal in the fall.

IS 228 Principal Dominick D'Angelo and Bridg-iT founder Jeff Ervine

IS 228 Principal Dominick D’Angelo and Bridg-iT founder Jeff Ervine (Source:

I.S. 228 David. A Boody Junior High School (228 Avenue S) is the first school in the nation to deploy bullying prevention software designed to curb harassment within its hallways.

Using any web-enabled device, including phones, tablets and desktop computers, students, parents and teachers can now inform the school’s administrators of incidents of bullying and harassment.

The software was designed by Bridg-iT School, and keeps records of reports tipsters file so that school administrators can determine patterns of behavior. It also will inform the school’s principal the moment a report is filed. All reports are kept confidential.

Principal Dominick D’Angelo told the Daily News that it will help address one of the top problems in tackling bullying in the hallways – simply being aware of it.

“This is a life-saving and life-changing opportunity because you don’t know the full extent of bullying within a particular school,” said D’Angelo. “The biggest challenge we have is knowing when something is happening.”

He believes students will be more willing to file the report confidentially and discreetly through a phone or computer than by openly approaching an administrator.

That jives with what students at the school told CBS:

Many students at I.S. 228 David A. Boody in Gravesend, Brooklyn have said they are afraid to come to an authority figure or adult about bullying.

“If they see you going to, like, the dean’s office or (principal) Mr. D’Angelo’s office, you’d be called a snitch and be bullied too,” said eighth grader Paola Price, 13.

Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 2.27.55 PM

Public School 748. (Source: Google Maps)

Parents have begun a petition and sent out letters to politicians calling for the  Gifted and Talented program to not be discontinued as proposed at the Brooklyn School for Global Scholars, Public School 748.

The parents say they learned last week that would not offer the popular program next school year, according to the Daily News.

In a letter to the Bensonhurst Bean, parent Jennifer Kim wrote, “The DOE did not give us affected families or the school any ample warning of this decision.” She continued, “This decision will gravely affect numerous families with younger siblings of students attending [the program] as they will no longer be afforded the same quality of education and places undue stress and hardship as families will need to get multiple children to different school at the same start time.”

P.S. 748, located on 1664 Benson Avenue was lauded as being one of the best schools in New York City last year and parents like Kim believe that the removal of this program will lead to the school’s general quality decay.

Parents were told that the program was being due to overcrowding but Kim remained skeptical about this reason and asked, “Why cut a program in which students are obviously thriving and educators are performing at their peak?”

City school officials did not return the Daily News’ request for comment.

Students attending a high school on Governor’s Island have been coming to Coney Island this winter. And it wasn’t to cut school; it was to scuba dive in the New York Aquarium in Coney Island, cleaning the tanks of the beloved critters.

The school, the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, is a public high school with a focus on marine science and technology. The program is part of an internship for nine students that allows them to scuba dive. But the waters around New York City are too cold in the winter so they use the Coney Island aquarium, according to the New York Times, where the students are tasked with cleaning the algae build-up in the tanks and general housekeeping chores.

The Times reports:

David DeNardo, the aquarium’s general curator, said that enlisting the students, who are paid minimum wage as part of the internship, was a good way to further the aquarium’s mission. Eventually, the aquarium and the school plan to develop a curriculum related to the Glover’s Reef exhibit, so that the students can better understand the species whose habitat they are keeping clean.

“It gives us an opportunity to teach these kids our conservation message,” Mr. DeNardo said. “We look at this as a chance to foster the next generation of conservationists.”

The students who dive are on the school’s professional diving track, where many of the students go on to study marine science, tourism and construction. When they first came to the school, they had no experience with diving but they learned about it, first in a classroom, then in a pool and finally in Jamaica Bay.

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