Recent comments

Search News & Views

Thursday, 18 October 2012 11:01

Film about IS 318 chess champs opens

Did you know a Brooklyn public middle school is home to the country's championship chess team? IS 318, a large 6-8 school in Williamsburg, boasts so many chess wins that the school's chess coach lost count. In April, it became the first middle school to win the National Chess Federation's high school championship. 

Now the award-winning chess team is the subject of an award-winning movie, too.

Documentary filmmaker Katie Dellamaggiore's new film about the school, Brooklyn Castle, follows five charismatic members of the IS 318 chess team as they tackle chess tournaments, navigate personal struggles (including choosing a high school) and deal with budget cuts to their after-school program. The documentary premeired at South By Southwest in March to rave reviews, winning the 2012 SXSW Audience Award. 

While Brooklyn Castle toured the festival circuit, the filmmakers did double-duty as activists promoting afterschool programs. (Check out their Vimeo channel for a behind-the-scenes video of their outreach, including a Marty Markowitz cameo and a speech from one of the very articulate and talented chess champs featured in the film.)

This week, New Yorkers finally have the chance to see the film. Lincoln Center has a sneak preview on Thursday night before it's officially released Friday, Oct. 19. Pick up tickets for the sneak preview here. Or, on Sunday, GothamSchools is hosting a special matinee screening with discounted tickets for teachers followed by a Q & A with IS 318's charismatic chess coaches.

If you go, we suggest you bring tissues. It looks like a tear-jerker, especially since the school's beloved principal Eric Rubino passed away soon after the film opened at Sundance. 

UPDATE: Public school teachers with a valid teacher ID or union card can see the move for free between Friday, Oct. 26th and Thursday, Nov. 1. Details here

Published in News and views
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 12:07

Collect backpacks for homeless kids

Drugstores and variety stores have already started displaying school supplies for September.  To help those families that cannot afford to buy supplies, Volunteers of America is launching its annual Operation Backpack, to collect backpacks and stuff them with school supplies for students who are homeless or live in domestic violence shelters.

Last year, 8,000 backpacks were collected and filled with requested school supplies and distributed to children.

Want to participate? The website lists ways that people can help:

For the month of July, you may drop off backpacks and school supplies at any Duane Reade store as well as other locations, including the offices of several City Council members.

In July and August corporations and other organizations are holding drives to collect items. In August, volunteers will be sorting supplies at a huge space in midtown.

You can host a drive at your office, community organization or place of worship, or you can purchase supplies from a wishlist online. Items may be shipped to: Volunteers of America, Attn: Kristin Kelly-Jangraw, 340 West 85th Street | New York, NY 10025.

Published in News and views

Nothing dulls the luster of my club's reading room quite like a spot of bad news. So it was no surprise that, upon spying the recent Times article about “The $1 million PTA,” and seeing my youngling’s venerable institution mentioned prominently, I spat out the afternoon’s gin & tonic and summoned my manservant.

“Jeeves!” I bellowed, and in an instant that reliable fellow was at my elbow. “Remind me how one obtains a retraction from New York newspaper czars. Do I post a letter, or is it mandatory to storm the editorial offices, smoke oozing from my nostrils? Have you read this inflammatory bit of yellow journalism?”

“Indeed I have, sir,” Jeeves replied. “The piece was rather informative regarding the large sums some parents raise for their children's schools. I am sorry to learn it distressed you.”

Published in News and views
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 15:04

No after-school? What's a family to do?

Laurie Crutcher is a parent and a program officer at TASC (The After School Corporation). Her story originally appeared on the TASC blog.

My daughter Emilie, who just turned 11 years old, will be attending JHS 190 Russell Sage in the fall. One of the deciding factors in my family's decision to send her there was the fact that the school has a Beacon after-school program.

I myself, upon moving to New York City in 1999, worked in a Beacon program in Sunnyside, and know the great service they provide to working parents and their kids. The JHS 190 Beacon is a place where my daughter feels safe and supported. She attended a Saturday program here and has fond memories of playing handball in the gym. The organization that runs the program, Queens Community House, has strong roots in the community and in youth programming, which makes me comfortable sending her there.

Now, we learn our Beacon is slated for closure, as are six other Beacons around New York City. If this happens, where will Emilie go after her school dismisses at 2:30? Will she walk home and stay alone until my husband and I get home from work? Every day, I walk past flowers left in memory of a middle school girl who was hit by a car in my neighborhood as she walked home from school.

Published in News and views
Friday, 11 May 2012 14:13

Poll: Should teachers be paid more?

It’s the end of teacher appreciation week: the DOE's number two guy, Shael Suransky, taught a class, Chancellor Walcott has been visiting schoolsMayor Bloomberg and countless others shared some #thankateacher love on Twitter, and maybe a few students brought apples to their teachers. We wonder, how can we best show our teachers appreciation all year round?

There are several politically charged answers to the that question that have been highlighted in the news lately. But, what about better pay? It’s no secret that teachers aren’t in it for the money. Teaching can be a highly rewarding job but it is not a career path paved with financial gold. A public school teacher in New York City with a BA can expect to earn $45,530 his first year, according to the UFT’s salary schedule.

Still, that’s almost 10K more than the national average: $36,502, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s most recent survey of education from around the world. But the high cost of living in the Big Apple, eats up much, if not all, of the difference.

After three decades on the job NYC teachers with a Master's degree can make over $100,000. Of course if you luck out and get a job at TEP, The Equity Project Charter School, you'll make $125,000 your first year there. But that's the exception.

Average starting pay for teachers in Finland, Diane Ravitch’s favorite place to learn, is actually lower, $32,692 (of course, the Socialist country has much better government benefits, but that’s a blogpost for another day). Teachers in Japan make $27,995 starting out and $30,522 is first-year pay for teachers in Korea. In Poland, on the other hand, starting salary is $9,186 on average. Luxemborg is one of the best places to teach if you’re after some green, starting teachers there make $51,799. (All these numbers are from OECD.) 

With that perspective, maybe New York’s not so bad! Then again, teachers are some of the most valuable members of society, should we pay them more? What do you think is a fair starting salary? Take our poll!

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 03 January 2012 17:28

Poll: Many schools skimp on art, does yours?

Close to half of city elementary schools do not meet state standards for arts instruction, even as the number of certified arts teachers in the schools has grown, according to the 2010-11 fifth annual Arts in the Schools Report released just before the holidays.

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 10:19

After-school programs to be cut?

City funding for hundreds of free after school progams that serve 53,000 students may be slashed by the Bloomberg administration in an upcoming round of budget cuts, the Center for New York City Affairs reports.

Two years ago the Out of School Time programs got $117 million from city, allowing 87,000 kids to attend free after school and vacation programs. City support was reduced to $90 million this year and now, a proposed contract for 2013 anticipates that the city would provide less than $70 million for the OST programs. The cuts mean that fewer than half the current number of students would be served, advocates predict.

A representative for the Department of Youth and Community Development which distributes the funding says the cost of providing  services is rising because in the future all programs will be required to provide both after school and summer programs.

Advocates voice concern about the impact of such cuts on families with the loss of affordable child care for working parents.

Read the full story here: Mayor's Axe to After School?

Published in News and views
Monday, 14 November 2011 12:58

Grants to improve your school

Budgets are tight and schools need all the help they can get to bring in outside resources. Applying for grants is one way to help ensure that extra funds become available to your school community.

Here's one source of small grants that Insideschools just learned about. (We'll share others as we hear of them.) Citizens Committee for New York City awards grants of $500 to $3,000 to volunteer-led groups to work on projects that "bring people together and that have a positive impact on the community." The group also offers project planning assistance and skills-building workshops.

Recent awards have enabled students, parents and teachers to come together to make healthy food available in their communities, transform school lawns into community gardens, and start school recycling programs. Citizens Committee is especially looking to reach out to schools in high-poverty neighborhoods .

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 08 November 2011 17:58

Parents to Cuomo: No more budget cuts!

"Millionaires have got to pay!" chanted public school children, parents, and teachers, who gathered for a protest outside of Gov. Andrew  Cuomo's Manhattan office on Tuesday and called for an extension of the so-called millionaire's tax.


Police kept the sidewalks clear for afternoon commuters on Third Avenue near Grand Central Terminal while dozens of protestors took turns at the mic—both real mic and the trademark Occupy Wall Street "human mic"—and aired concerns about budget cuts. Complaints included over-crowding, co-locations, cuts to after-school programs and lack of arts programs.


"The government is more interested in campaign contributions for future elections than for the welfare of New York City kids," said Ben Wides, a father and public school teacher.


"If we're going to put the energy into fundraising, we can put it into protesting, too," said Yong Lapage, whose 10-year-old daughter attends Brooklyn New School. His daughter Simone walked on stilts and carried a sign: "stand tall for education." He said his PTA raised tens of thousands of dollars to offset budget cuts last year.


Cuomo did not make an appearance, but but City Council member Brad Lander of Park Slope and his daughter showed up to support the protestors.

Published in News and views
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 11:54

Parents say: "Make millionaires pay"

"The fact that everybody wants it, that doesn't mean all that much."

So said Governor Andrew Cuomo on Oct. 17, explaining why he had decided not to extend the "millionaire's tax."

Some public school parents disagree, and they're taking their demand to Cuomo's doorstep on Election Day. They want the tax, which would generate $2.8 billion in the next fiscal year, to help offset a projected $1.4 billion budget cut aimed at city schools next year.

Published in News and views