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Archive for the tag 'schools'

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.

Source: jeweledlion/Flickr

Councilman Chaim Deutsch has advised us that there are nearly 100 vacancies for crossing guard positions across New York City, making a potentially dangerous situation for children – and creating an opportunity for those looking for part-time employment.

Crossing guards are employed by the New York Police Department, and keep the streets safe for crossing children at both public and private schools. According to Deutsch, the NYPD had 92 vacancies as of mid-January. He’s encouraging residents to visit their local precinct and sign up.

“Establishing public safety in my community has always been my top priority,” said Council Member Chaim Deutsch. “By applying for a position as an NYPD Crossing Guard, you will be helping to protect neighborhood children while getting paid and obtaining excellent benefits, a win-win situation.”

Here are the details on the job:

There are no formal requirements of education or experience. School Crossing Guards work five-hour days for a maximum of 25 hours per week. Schedules may vary by school, but are generally from 7:00 am to 9:30 am, and 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm. The starting rate of pay is $9.88 per hour. Every effort is made to assign guards to a school within the precinct where they reside. School Crossing Guards are eligible to enroll in a city-sponsored health insurance program if they work 20 hours per week on a steady basis. All candidates must be able to understand and be understood in English, in addition to passing a qualifying medical examination and a character investigation.

In addition to visiting your precinct, you can find the application here.

The following is a press release from the offices of the Community Education Council of District 21:

Last Thursday’s announcement regarding the continuance of charter co-locations at I.S. 96, Seth Low, and I.S. 281, Joseph B. Cavallaro, is a major setback for our community.  There was such hope that Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Farina would finally listen to the voices of parents and community members.  Many of us now feel only disappointment and frustration. In the fall of 2013, the Community Education Council District 21 passed two resolutions opposing both co-locations, we have rallied, gone to both PEP meetings and still our voices were not heard.  2014 had such potential for parents and yet again, we have been pushed to the side.  We have been given a promise that they will do things better in the future.  What about the children and their families that are already attending I.S. 96 Seth Low, and I.S. 281, Joseph B. Cavallaro, don’t they count too?  I understand that they based their decisions on families that applied for seats for September 2014 and the deadline was coming.  Our children’s educations should not be about deadlines.  We provide excellent educational opportunities for all children in this district and have seats in our traditional public schools for the children who have applied.  More time should have been taken to visit and speak to schools, families, and community members regarding the co-locations. There is no need to rush putting two more elementary schools in our district. We have and always will supply a high quality education for every child in our district’s traditional public schools.   Mayor de Blasio’s plan is to provide full day, high quality Pre-K programs to 53,000 students in 2014. With two elementary Charter school co-locations opening in 2014 in our district, what middle school space can the Chancellor guarantee will be available for these students in the future?

It’s time to come together once again as a community! Let our voices be heard loud and clear “We say NO to the co-locations decisions on I.S. 96 and I.S. 281, Joseph B. Cavallaro”. The Community Education Council District 21 calls on Chancellor Farina and Mayor de Blasio to reverse the decision to implement co-location plan for I.S.96, Seth Low and I.S. 281, Joseph B. Cavallaro.

The Community Education council of District 20 & 21 invites all community members to join them at I.S. 96 Seth Low to Rally on Friday, March 7, 2014 at 2:30 PM.

Seth Low JHS will be the site of a rally against the proposed co-locations on Friday. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last Thursday that he will allow 36 public and charter schools to move into existing schools while giving the boot to other charter school co-location plans, prompting outrage from politicians and education advocates in Southern Brooklyn.

“I am very disappointed because the decision to co-locate Coney Island Prep with I.S. 281 does not square with the facts as we presented,” Councilman Vincent Gentile said in a press release that was cosigned by fellow councilmen David Greenfield and Mark Treyger. “I’ve said repeatedly that Cavallaro is already busting at the seams and there is no need for an elementary school in this area.”

Among the schools that de Blasio to see co-locations are Coney Island Prep (the charter school) with Cavallaro Intermediate School I.S. 281, and Success Academy Charter School with Seth Low Intermediate School I.S. 96.

The initiative to co-locate public schools with charter schools was created during the Bloomberg administration and according to the press release cosigned by the councilmen, many were hopeful that the co-locations would be reversed.

“Many of us who are part of the public school system were hopeful that with a new administration, we’d see a real, meaningful change that responded to the needs of the community. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case, as both I.S. 96 and I.S. 281 are still slated for charter co-locations in September 2014,” members of  Community Education Council District 20 said in a statement.

Besides the harsh words, the education council announced that they will be holding a rally this Friday at 2:30 p.m. at Seth Low I.S. 96 (99 Avenue P) in an attempt to pressure the de Blasio administration to reverse their decision. If the co-location goes through, critics argue,  schools that already have a large student body will be forced to take on more students from the charter schools, resulting in overpopulation.

“I am extremely disappointed in the decision to allow the co-location of a charter school at I.S. 96 (the Seth Low School) that our district does not need or want,” Greenfield writes in the press release. “This co-location will come at the expense of the school’s dedicated staff and hard-working students. . . This proposal does not take into account the students’ needs or the impact this will clearly have on this important school.”

Joining the ranks of critics is Assemblyman William Colton – his area covers parts of Gravesend and Bath Beach – who calls for Cavallaro Intermediate School I.S. 281 and Seth Low I.S. 96 to not co-locate with charter schools. In a press release, he said he is “extremely disappointed that Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Farina did not reverse the decisions” to co-locate the two schools in Southern Brooklyn.

For his part, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz  is commending Mayor de Blasio and Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Farina for withdrawing the co-location plan for John Dewey High School (50 Avenue X), one of the nine locations the de Blasio administration offered a reprieve. Critics of charter schools want every school’s co-location to be withdrawn.

“I intend to work with my colleagues to fight this decision tooth and nail,” Greenfield said in the press release.

Correction: The original version of this article mistakenly identified the charter school to be co-located with I.S 96 Seth Low. The correct name of the charter school is Success Academy Charter School, and the post has been amended. We regret any confusion this may have caused.

Make Your Mark Launches January 20th


Power to Learn, the education initiative of Cablevision’s Optimum, and the Smithsonian Channel have launched a new competition to celebrate Black History Month, and give an opportunity for high school students to affect real change in their communities.

The Make Your Mark contest invites students to submit creative video proposals for projects that could “incite positive change” at their schools and communities. The winning video will be awarded $2,500 to make the project a reality.

From the press release:

As part of the contest, students will view the Smithsonian Channel documentary Breath of Freedom that details the experiences of African-American GIs who helped rebuild Germany at the end of World War II and experienced equality for the first time overseas. Just as the soldiers featured in the documentary helped ignite the Civil Rights Movement, students can document their unique “mark” for positive change in their own video.

The “Make Your Mark” contest is open to all high school students in Optimum’s footprint within the tri-state area. Students should record and submit a creative and informative video (two minutes maximum) that explains their “mark,” why it should be chosen and how their school or community could benefit from the $2500 award. They will then share this video (via Facebook or Tweets) with friends and family to earn votes for the project. Deadline for entries is February 28.

Details and application form here.

I suggest a project telling our internet service providers like Optimum how important net neutrality is. Just sayin’.

Source: Assemblyman William Colton's office

Source: Assemblyman William Colton’s office

The following is a press release from the offices of Assemblyman William Colton:

Assemblymember William Colton (D-47th Assembly District, Brooklyn) is calling on the State Education Department and Commissioner Dr. John B. King, Jr. to delay Common Core test-based assessments for at least two years, while also providing additional resources and support to training educators in the new standards. Furthermore, Assemblyman Colton believes this delay should apply to test-based decisions affecting teachers, students and principals and the sharing of sensitive and private student data with third-party vendors.

Related from Sheepshead Bites: 

Colton has raised the issue of the implementation of the new Common Core Curriculum in public schools during this school year at the State Legislature’s Joint Budget Hearing on Elementary and Secondary Education on January 28 in Albany. This new Common Core curriculum was created as a result of the monies granted to New York State by the federal government as part of its “Race to the Top” educational campaign. However, the Common Core has become somewhat controversial, especially with its initial roll out, which has caused anger, confusion, and frustation among parents and educators alike.

At this Joint Budget Hearing, Colton questioned State Education Commissioner Dr. John B. King, Jr. with his serious concerns about the implementation of the new Common Core standards, citing the unanimously passed resolutions of Community Education Councils Districts 20 and 21 to argue that parents and educators are questioning if input from parents and the needs of students are being considered with the new curriculum.

Colton asserted, “We all share the same goals of improving our schools and ensuring that our students receive the education they deserve.” He then continued, “That’s why we need to get the new curriculum implementation right. Numerous concerns, including in my own district, regarding the State Education Department’s roll-out of the Common Core have been raised. I repeat what I declared to Commissioner King: the train is leaving the station, but many students and parents are not on board that train. While we work to find solutions to these issues, it’s only sensible that we delay the use of the Common Core-aligned tests for making high-stake evaluations associated with the new standards.”

In addition, Colton thinks that the State Education Department should continue developing curricula aligned with Common Core and provide assistance to local school districts and educators in their efforts to develop effective methods for teaching Common Core subjects to students. The State Education Department has admitted that the new Common Core sample curriculum has not yet been developed, meaning only the sample curriculum for grade schools have been completed.

Furthermore, Colton is calling on the State Education Department to provide extra help to districts in order to ensure the proper and successful implementation of the new Common Core curriculum. Colton is advocating for an increase in support monies for teacher training centers and professional development for educators. Colton insisted, “Our educators need help with implementing the new Common Core standards. In many districts, teachers have not been adequately trained and need additional professional development to make sure they are receiving the resources and support that they need. How are we going to test students on the new curriculum when some teachers haven’t been trained in the new standards? This is unacceptable and absolutely absurd.”

Assemblymember Colton is also calling for a delay in the sharing of sensitive student data. Over the past year, many educators, community members and stakeholders have raised concerns about potential flaws in the Education Department’s plans to share sensitive student data with third-party vendors like inBloom Inc. These concerns relate to the protection of student data from security breaches and the potential for the student data to be inappropriately used for commercial purposes.

“We need to protect the privacy of our students and ensure that any information about them is being used for valid educational purposes. The State Education Department should also delay for at least two years the sharing of student data with any third-party vendor until all of these concerns have been adequately addressed,” affirmed Colton.

Before being elected to the State Assembly in 1996, Assemblyman William Colton worked as a New York City public school teacher and as a United Federation of Teachers Chapter Chairperson for six of those years. Previously working in the education field, Colton has first-hand experience of teaching in a classroom, and knows the importance of providing quality educations to our public school students and sufficient resources for our educators. He also earned a Master’s Degree in Education from Brooklyn College.

Source: Old Shoe Woman/Flickr

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this week that he hopes to create an advisory board for the implementation of the controversial Common Core curriculum and stop standardized testing for children below third grade, drawing sighs of relief from local education activists who have been critical of the rollout.

“Any progress is great progress,” said Heather Ann Fiorica, the president of the District 21′s Community Education Council. “Now more people are talking about it because of Cuomo.”

Fiorica and CEC21 challenged the curriculum’s implementation during a meeting last week, passing a resolution asking the state to slow down the rollout, relieve the testing burden on special needs students and provide more training to teachers and faculty.

In response to the news, Fiorica, who is a parent herself, also said the idea of an advisory panel was promising since it would “bring more awareness” to legislators and politicians and convince them that Common Core needs a few speed bumps.

Common Core is a new curriculum being adopted across the nation, drawing criticism from parents and teachers. It relies on more rigorous standardized testing, and teachers in New York say they have not received proper training or been informed of materials on the test.

“I support the Common Core agenda,” Cuomo said during his budget presentation on Tuesday. “But the way the Common Core has been managed by the Board of Regents is flawed. There’s too much uncertainty, confusion and anxiety.”

A panel of advisers as Cuomo is now promoting would, presumably, take these things into consideration and recommend “corrective action,” as Cuomo put it, for the new curriculum.

State Senator Marty Golden is also applauding the governor’s plan to change the way Common Core is implemented, and adds that he wants to see an end to standardized testing of children below the third grade.

“I applaud and agree with the Governor’s decision to suspend testing from Kindergarten to 2nd grade, and I am glad to see the Board of Regents concurs,” Golden said in a press release. “The entirety of the Common Core Curriculum must be reviewed, but nevertheless, standardized testing for Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd graders is unnecessary.”

Cuomo said the advisory panel will issue a report before the end of Albany’s legislative session in June.

Source: Old Shoe Woman/Flickr

The Community Education Council of School District 21 (CEC21) is challenging the state’s testing and educational policies, voting this week to request the Department of Education “re-evaluate and slow the implementation” of Common Core testing standards.

The council’s resolution argues that the tougher standardized testing requirements of the Common Core curriculum do not meet the individualized needs of students, and leave many students – especially those with special needs – in the dust.

“Each child is different and this approach is very cookie-cutter like,” said Heather Ann Fiorica, the president of CEC21.

They also say that the state bungled implementation, pushing it through too quickly without soliciting feedback or providing training.

Find out more about the issue, and read the resolution.

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