P.S. 107 Thomas A Dooley
QUEENS NY 11358 Map
P.S. 107 Thomas A Dooley
PS 107 is a large, bright school that prides itself on accommodating both children who are academically proficient and those with severe special needs. James Phair, who has been principal for more than 15 years, says he strives to promote a "caring, nurturing atmosphere where all kids feel comfortable." Successfully bringing together students with no special needs, children in six "self-contained" special education classes, hundreds of students who receive various forms of therapy, and many children with physical disabilities, PS 107 is indeed a place where all children feel comfortable, both with themselves and with classmates who are different from them.
Most students enter ready to begin reading, and many students who could enroll in district-wide gifted programs instead stay at PS 107. As a result, even with all of its students' challenges, Phair notes that PS 107 has the second-highest test scores of all District 25 schools without official gifted programs.
Phair, whose background is in special education, says the driving force behind the school's program for students with special needs is a belief that "physical handicaps shouldn't negate the possibility of excelling." Because of PS 107's reputation for inclusion and academic excellence, families with children with special needs move to the school zone. The playground is designed for wheelchair accessibility; nine therapists conduct more than 350 counseling sessions each week; and toys and equipment donated by Toys 'R' Us brighten special education and mainstream classrooms alike. As a result of these features and others, the school feels like a friendly, inclusive place, one where an amputee became the head of the cheerleading squad (years later, it still makes Phair smile).
In many ways, the huge school is quite traditional: Teachers adhere faithfully to the city's prescribed curriculum and students are sorted into classes according to academic ability. For students who are struggling but do not need special education services, PS 107 has smaller classes that are served by aides in literacy and speech as well as the classroom teacher. There are also advanced classes in the upper grades for gifted students whose families have chosen to keep them at PS 107 rather than send them to a district-wide gifted program. Advanced students do in-depth projects, such as a lengthy study of inventions that culminated in an evening showcase drawing more than 500 people.
We observed class after class of good-natured, friendly kids who were eager to help out in the classroom and do the tasks assigned to them, which ranged in difficulty and creativity. For example, we saw 3rd graders filling in bubble sheets to prepare for state tests, but we also saw 4th graders playing math games in small groups to develop their basic skills.
With a stable staff and a well-established reputation, Phair sees his role as supporting the initiatives of the teachers, as with an end-of-year performance that has become an important tradition. Classroom teachers plan together and develop "curriculum maps" to structure their teaching throughout the year. The few new teachers are "embraced" by the experienced staff, Phair said, while senior teachers benefit from the fresh training and ideas of their younger colleagues.
In recent years the school has seen a growing number of students who do not speak English at home. The parent coordinator said PS 107 is using translation services to make materials and meetings available to immigrant families, but getting them involved is difficult.
Until recently, the building was overcrowded and in need of repair, but district-wide declining enrollment and renovations of the 100-year-old structureincluding repairs to its faÃ§ade, the addition of new art and science rooms, and the introduction of wireless technologyhave taken care of those problems. In addition, as with all District 25 schools, to conform to citywide norms PS 107 will lose its 6th grade in the 2007-08 school year, becoming a Pre-K5th grade school.
After school: Several clubs meet during and after school, including two glee clubs, a dance ensemble, a basketball team, a chess club, and programs in which students assist in the science lab, library, or computer labs.
Special education: There are "self-contained" classes for profoundly disabled children only, but most students with special needs are integrated into general education classes. Special education coordinators participate in grade-level curriculum planning.
This school is included in New York City's Best Public Elementary Schools. (Philissa Cramer, November 2006)