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Archive for the tag 'schools'

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.

The Brooklyn Public Library has expanded its annual Summer Meals Program, offering no-cost lunch to children and teens ages 18 and under.

It’s a major expansion for the program, run by the New York City Department of Education with federal funds, more than quadrupling it from the six sites available last year.

The program is made to ensure that during the summer months, when kids are out of school, no child or teen will go hungry. The season kicked off June 27 and last until August 29, with lunches served every weekday from 1:15 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. at each of the libraries.

It’s a no-questions-asked policy, and citizenship status is not a factor.

The following local branches are part of the program:

For the full list of participating branches, look here.


The following is a press release from the offices of Councilman Mark Treyger:

In response to concerns over the safety of students, staff and parents walking to P.S. 95 in Gravesend, the NYC Department of Transportation has agreed to Council Member Mark Treyger’s request to install a speed hump by the start of the upcoming school year. The speed hump will be installed along Van Sicklen Street to prevent drivers from speeding past the school, which currently occurs on a regular basis.

Immediately after hearing from worried parents and school leaders after taking office earlier this year, Council Member Treyger led Brooklyn DOT Commissioner Joseph Palmieri on a tour of the area to show him firsthand the constant speeding traffic that passes the school each morning and afternoon. Also on hand for the site visit was Assemblyman Bill Colton, school volunteer Vincent Sampieri, who brought the issue to Council Member Treyger’s attention, Principal Janet Ndzibah, PTA President Christine Schneider Lulu Elaza and other residents. As a result, the DOT conducted the necessary traffic studies and has worked with a homeowner on Van Sicklen Street who agreed to allow the city to install the speed hump near their driveway. The DOT now expects the work to be completed by early September, hopefully in time for the new school year.

“This is a simple but vital step we can take to protect the students of P.S. 95 as they walk to and from school each day. After all, there is nothing as important as the safety of our children. As soon as I heard about this issue, I knew it was imperative to act before any more accidents or close calls occur due to reckless and dangerous drivers speeding through that area. My thanks to Mr. Sampieri and the school’s leadership for bringing this to my attention, to Assemblyman Colton for his partnership on this issue, and to the DOT for agreeing to install this speed hump on behalf of P.S. 95,” said Council Member Treyger.

CORRECTION (4:36 p.m.): We received a note from Councilman Treyger’s office amending the above press release. The PTA president who is pictured and referenced is Lulu Elaza and not Christine Schneider.



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.

Francesca Leobowitz, Middle School English teacher at Poly Prep. (Source: Courtesy of Aliza Eliazarov)

Brooklyn-based photographer Aliza Eliazarov has put together a series on the lives of teachers in New York City, which features many teachers from schools in Borough Park and Dyker Heights.

While there are many aspects to focus on in a teacher’s life, Eliazarov looked at the moment she calls “the calm after the storm,” when students have left school for the day and the teacher is given a minute of reprieve. It’s a rare glimpse into that moment few other professions may experience, the moment when a person goes from stewards of youth and molders of the future to being… regular people again.

Eliazarov was inspired by her own experience as an elementary school teacher, a job she left to pursue photography full time. She writes of the series:

After school is a poignant time in a teacher’s day. It’s one of both reflection and preparation – exhaustion and relief, concern and contentment. This portrait series is a glimpse in to the world of the challenging life of today’s educator.

Among the teachers Eliazarov finds for the set, titled “NYC Teachers After School,” are three Poly Prep Country Day School (9216 7th Avenue) teachers. 

Francesca Leobowitz, featured above, left a career in advertising for a profession where she says she’s inspired by the students. ” I have to say I have the best job. I love, love, love what I do,” she told Eliazarov.


Josina Reaves, a high school level teacher at Poly Prep, is the subject of one of the most compelling photos in the series. She sits at a student’s desk, “exhausted,” while pens and other detritus on the floor tell the story of the just-left students. The teacher was asked about the highlight of her day and she responded, “I read some fantastic student poems – some were really thoughtful, well done and revealing.”

Another cool-yet-totally-unrelated thing about Reaves? She made an appearance on the show “Who Wants To Be A Millionare?” last year. Reaves may know all about writing compare-and-contrast essays, but when it comes to Nostradamus’ predictions she fell short and lost her chance to win a million dollars. (Then again, her answer was totally sensible. But few should expect sense from Nostradamus).

There was also an elementary school teacher from P.S. 164 in Borough Park named Peter Mancini who talked about conducting his student band to play a Star Wars song. Sure beats the Titanic theme I suffered through in school band.


Check out all 12 awesome photos from Eliazarov’s “NYC Teachers After School” series.

Fort Hamilton High School (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

One hundred and thirty students from Fort Hamilton High School (8301 Shore Road) were stranded on a Florida highway overnight after their charter bus broke down early Monday morning..

The kids were returning from Disney World, where they competed in a Disney Music Festival, when one of the two buses carrying the students broke down on Insterstate 4, just outside of Orlando.

The students were stuck for more than eight hours without power or air conditioning after the mechanical failure. Rather than split the kids up and let the functioning bus go on its way, Assistant Principal Tom Oberle decided to keep both buses together for their safety.

At approximately 9:30 a.m., a replacement charter bus arrived, allowing them to transfer and be on their way.

They got back to the school early Tuesday morning, safe and sound.

One of the student’s mothers wrote to Bensonhurst Bean about the ordeal, and praised Oberle for effectively managing the situation:

My daughter is a member of the FHHS Orchestra and is on the bus.

I spoke to my daughter early this morning, who said they slept on the bus on the side of the road awaiting the new bus which finally came at around 8:30 this morning. I lost communication with her as her cell phone battery died during the long wait for the new bus, however, I am confident in her safety with Mr. Oberle, the assistant Principal and Staff Chaperones.

The Principal and parent coordinator assured us through email and phone messages(see below) that safety and care is their number one priority.

Students will be provided food and beverages for everyone during the extended travel by the school . She said they will be excused from school tommorrow, but have to make up the work they missed.

I commend Tom Oberle, the assistant principal and Staff Chaparones for keeping the students calm and safe during the ordeal.

I can’t wait till their arrival this morning between 3 and 5 AM and finally breath a sigh of relief that they are home safe!

Here is the letter the principal sent out to the students’ families:

Dear Parents of Students on the Festival Disney Trip:

By now you have heard from your child about the delay in their return to Brooklyn from the Florida trip. The bus break down was unfortunate, but more problematic was the long wait for a replacement bus. Please know that Mr. Oberle has consistently pressed the bus company for more immediate responsiveness and information since the bus broke down late Sunday evening. We have been working together since early this morning and finally have confirmation that students are back on the road as of 9:30am today, Monday, March 24.

We are sorry about the inconvenience, but this is what we expect regarding students’ return to school:

3/24/14 9:30am Back on road to NYC

6:30pm Arrive Fayetteville, NC to exchange temporary bus with Coach USA bus for remainder of trip back to NYC

3/25/14 3:00am Expected arrival at Fort Hamilton HS.

Students will be excused from classes as though they were still involved in the trip, but they will need to make up the work.

The expected return of 3am may be modified once they are further into the trip. Please stay in touch with your child via cell or other means.

The safety and care for your children continues to be the number one priority. Resources to provide food and beverages for everyone during the extended travel will be covered by the school.

The delay in return also puts a delay in celebrating the students’ success in the competition, but we are proud of every student and staff member who participated in the Disney competition. Thank you for continued trust. Please let me know if you have questions.

Kaye Houlihan,

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For many children, confidence can be a hard thing to come by. In Acting Out, a Bensonhurst business, children and teenagers are taught to sing, dance, act – and believe in themselves. Up on stage day after day, kids learn to be comfortable in the spotlight.

“It’s really important for them to kind of come out of their shell and just have fun in these classes,” Emily Nicholas, a singing and acting instructor, said.

The business is owned by John and Roberta Isgro. In 2012, they opened the school on 7426 15th Avenue. At the time they were seeking a grant to launch the local acting school. More than 10 years ago, they both got into the idea of having an acting school when Roberta opened an Acting Out in Mill Basin, which still operates today. With only a “small class and a handful of vocal students,” John told Bensonhurst Bean, he soon joined his wife.

We put together this little video to bring readers inside the school, and show how they’re helping students build confidence and skills.

Inside Bensonhurst’s Acting School For Kids from Eric Jankiewicz on Vimeo.

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