P.S. 220 Edward Mandel

62-10 108 STREET
QUEENS NY 11375 Map
Phone: (718) 592-3030
Admissions: Neighborhood school
gifted
Principal: Josette Pizarro
Neighborhood: Forest Hills
District: 28
Grade range: 0K thru 05
Parent coordinator: TIFFANY MATTHEWS

What's special:

Innovative Shakespeare program.

The downside:

Office staff and principal can be brusque.

The InsideStats

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Our review

SEPTEMBER 2010 UPDATE Gifted and Talented classes are reinstated in grades kindergarten through 3rd grade with plans to move them up to fifth grade:

MARCH 2005 REVIEW: PS 220 is a high-performing school with an innovative Shakespeare festival, a strong technology program, and a forceful principal whose take-no-prisoners manner has won him both friends and foes among parents and the teaching staff.

When Lawrence Pearlstein became principal in May 2002, he made lots of staff changes, alienating some teachers and winning praise from others. Many teachers left, and some who have stayed grumble that Pearlstein has not created a collegial working environment. But others praise his leadership, saying he has given them the leeway to teach as they see fit. For his part, Pearlstein makes no apologies for his management style, saying he has the children's interests at heart. He points to steadily rising test scores as a sign of his success.

"When I started, I made a lot of changes, and I moved personnel around," said Pearlstein, who became principal after three years as assistant principal at PS 99 in Kew Gardens. "When you make changes, there are people who are going to resist, and they are going to vent their frustration any way they can."

Dedicated to the arts, Pearlstein reinstated a full-time music teacher and introduced a program in which children perform abridged versions of play by Shakespeare, such as a delightful 40-minute version of Hamlet that we watched at a presentation for senior citizens at the nearby Central Queens YMHA.

The play's most important scenes were interspersed with a narrator's humorous, plain-English commentary designed to make the plot more understandable for children. Pearlstein said he hopes to continue the exchange with the Y as community outreach. The program began with a student recorder concert directed by the music teacher, whose position Pearlstein expanded from twice weekly to fulltime after he became principal. Each class in grades 3-5 does a one-act from a Shakespearean play. The principal also used arts funding for Elizabethan dance, puppetry and mural-painting residencies for lower-grade children.

Back at the school, we watched 3rd graders practice with typing software in the computer lab. For Martin Luther King Day, 2nd graders wrote original poems around the theme, "My Dream," using them to build a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation. Kindergarten special ed students used magnets to distinguish magnetic materials in a science experiment.

Parents we spoke to generally praised the quality of teaching at the school. However the office staff got mixed reviews. A staff member said she feels sorry for parents who visit the office. She used words like "bullied" and "interrogated" to describe how parents are made to feel by the secretarial staff. "I feel especially sorry for immigrant parents" who struggle with English, she said.

Enrollment at PS 220 has fallen from 549 to 472 since spring 2002. Reduced funding from the Department of Education forced the school to release its librarian and discontinue its gifted and talented program after spring 2004. But students continue to excel. Between spring 2003 and spring 2004, the percentage of 4th graders scoring on or above standard on the state literacy exam leapt from 59 to 81 percent. Math scores rose from 77 to 94 percent.

English as a Second Language: About 60 children are taken out of their regular classes to receive ESL instruction.

Special education: In fall 2002, PS 220 adopted the CTT (Collaborative Team Teaching) model. Three classes one each in kindergarten and the 1st and 2nd grades place one regular and one special ed teacher in a classroom with both regular and special ed students. Two self-contained classes one kindergarten and one 1/2nd grade bridge class also exist.

After school: Students, grades 3rd through 5th, meet in groups of 10 or less children for extra academic help, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:50-4:50 p.m. The Shakespeare troupe schedules after-school practices as needed to go with rehearsals during the school day. For a small fee, children can attend an academic and recreational program at a local community organization, though a parent said that there is a "long waiting list." (John E. Thomas, March 2005)

NOTE: As of March 2006, there is a new principal at the school, Josette Pizarro.

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