P.S. 8 Shirlee Solomon
STATEN ISLAND NY 10308 Map
P.S. 8 Shirlee Solomon
In a neighborhood that feels like a blend of suburban New Jersey and leafy, New England hamlet, PS 8 stands on a small wedge of land, its name in glittering gold capital letters across the warm brick edifice. Bracketed by residential streets -- one of which is named School Road -- it's clearly a community hub. Mothers stand outside on the sidewalk, chatting and smoking, as children hurry up the school's steep steps. The building dates from 1915, replacing the school's original wooden structure, which was erected in 1892. A strong sense of history and community pervades the school today: One main-floor bulletin board is covered with neat rows of essays by graduating fifth-graders, detailing their favorite PS 8 memories.
PS 8 has consistently high test scores and prominent lobby displays celebrating various contest winners (Spelling Bee, Americanism, Storytelling, Science Fair). The regional office has introduced innovations in teaching methods in line with the citywide progressive curriculum, but many teachers seem hesitant about the new methods and neither the parents nor the children seem to chafe under the more traditional, familiar approach.
Mornings begin with the Pledge of Allegiance, which is read over the public address system by two students chosen daily. Even the school security guard stands, hand over heart, for the recitation, and stays on her feet during the tinny recording of God Bless America that follows. All the students sing along.
Visiting the classrooms was not possible on the day we had an appointment to visit the school. Due to unanticipated conflicts, the principal, the assistant principals, and the parent coordinator were unavailable, and our requests to see teachers at work were rebuffed by the school's UFT representative. We were allowed to see the hallways, however. Bulletin boards were decorated with student-made art -- pointillism with paint and Q-tips, and with crayons; collages; illustrations of student writing -- and hallways were extremely clean. Classes we peeked into seemed well-engaged, with students learning about parts of a sentence, or avidly discussing a literature passage.
Most of the school's 37 teachers have been on staff for a decade or more. Classes are grouped heterogeneously (with children of different abilities in the same room). Children have science once or twice a week, and have weekly lessons in social studies, technology/media, and art and music from specialists called "cluster teachers." Although the school has no gym teacher, children have physical education once a week, and play outside daily, weather permitting.
PS 8 produces talent shows, fund-raisers, a spring carnival, Field Day (for fourth and fifth graders) and other school-wide events to engage parents and families. Every month, the class with the closest-to-perfect attendance record is rewarded with a pizza party. Fourth and fifth graders can participate in band, depending on their performance on a music aptitude test. Parent involvement in special events is strong, but "turnout's not that good" at PTA meetings, according to the assistant principal, Erica Mattera.
The school is moving at its own pace from traditional practices to "more modern styles," says Mattera, who says better integration of everyday math, balanced literacy, and arts and media education are among the school's short-term goals.
Special education: Five self-contained special education classes serve about 60 children, with a few students mainstreamed into general education classes for specific subjects.
ESL: About a dozen students require ELL support; frequency and learning model depends on student need and grade.
After-school programs: Self-sustaining after-school offerings include sports, chorus, academic remediation and test prep. (Helen Zelon, June 2005)