priority on community

Union announces three school community centers, adding to city's push

The United Federation of Teachers announced three more schools they will begin to transform into community hubs on Thursday, adding to the union’s and city’s efforts to provide additional services at more schools across the city.

The announcement from UFT President Michael Mulgrew comes two days after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city would use a $52 million grant to add health centers, job training and other services to 40 schools. Mulgrew, who has overseen the launch of over 20 community schools in the last three years, said both groups are working at their own school sites to speed up the city’s plan to create 100 of these schools by 2018.

“This is a lot of hard work, and we basically just said let the flowers bloom,” Mulgrew said. “Creating 100 community learning schools is a major task, and it’s not easy.”

The schools, P.S. 184 and P.S. 156 in Brownsville and Gotham Professional Arts Academy High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, will add services like medical or dental offices, though the organizations working with each school will help them determine what specific needs they have. The union has pointed to those services as key to improving schools in low-income neighborhoods, a vision the de Blasio administration shares.

Their push for community schools gained ground after Mulgrew and de Blasio toured a school with a similar model in Cincinnati, where city leaders took a decade to launch 52 community schools, in 2012. But de Blasio has said he wants the city to have nearly double that number in much less time.

“It’s like whoever can do this work, let’s just move, and move it quickly,” Mulgrew explained.

Mulgrew made the announcement at a construction kick-off for a school-based health and vision center at P.S. 188 in Coney Island. This summer, the school will start to transform its cafeteria into a $2 million health center, which will offer eye exams and glasses to students, as well as medical, dental and mental health services.

Peter Lopez, the site director at P.S. 188 for Lutheran Family Health Center who will oversee the school’s health services, said the continuity of services is crucial for students without access to regular health care.

“Whether they’re insured or not, they can come see the school-based providers,” he said.

P.S. 188 is the seventeenth city school Lutheran Family Health Center is working to transform into a community school. The facility will also serve students from other Coney Island schools.

Nedene Carby, a teacher at P.S. 156, one of the schools set to receive new services, said offering health services in the school shows the parents that the teachers are invested in more than just the students’ academic performance.

“Often times [students are] absent because they have a doctor’s appointment, and if it’s right here, we’ll be able to meet their needs, not just academically, but emotionally as well,” Carby said.

Even so, it is hard to tell whether having those services in schools improves students’ academic performance. Principals at New York’s community schools have said the services have not been provided for a long enough time to tell, and students’ test scores in Cincinnati have increased between one and three percentage points.

De Blasio said this week that he would not judge the schools’ success by test scores, but rather focus on attendance, student health, and parent engagement.

An earlier version of this story said P.S. 184, P.S. 156 and Gotham Academy Arts Professional High School would all receive health centers in their schools. Instead, they will establish their specific needs to decide what services to offer.

Stay up to date on New York City’s education news by following Chalkbeat on Twitter here.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.