P.S. 15 Jackie Robinson
QUEENS NY 11413 Map
P.S. 15 Jackie Robinson
SEPTEMBER 2006 UPDATE: Andrew Newman is no longer the school's principal. As of the fall of 2006, the school's principal is Antonio K'Tori.
MAY 2005 REVIEW: PS 15, the Jackie Robinson School, is situated in a quiet residential section of Springfield Gardens. In the school's main entrance, visitors are treated to two portraits of the school's namesake: one of the young Brooklyn Dodger and the other of an older, more distinguished Robinson. The school comprises two wings: the original, red brick building erected in 1939 and a sleek addition housing a gymnasium and the school's auditorium equipped with professional lighting and decorated with tiles inscribed with lines recited by novelist Toni Morrison upon her acceptance of the Nobel Prize for literature. While the new wing is lovely, it was not designed to provide additional classroom or office space, something the school could use.
Andrew Newman, principal since 1998, was a journalist before entering education in the late 1960's, and he walks the school the way a reporter would cover a beat -- popping into classrooms unannounced to observe instruction, eyeballing smudges on the walls, picking up litter in the hallway. In one quiet class, Newman spotted a girl wearing a decorative scarf on her head and summoned her to remove it and comb her hair. "My philosophy is based upon a title of a book Management by Walking Around," said Newman. "If you walk around the school, you can address problems before they blow up." Indeed on the day of our visit, the hallways were calm, and most children seemed engaged in independent work or what Newman calls the "healthy chatter" of the student group-work that has become very much part of the city-mandated approach to teaching. "You can't have a workshop model of instruction without noise," Newman said. The principal also does lunch duty everyday because "it gives me a break and I get to know the kids."
Teachers we observed seemed to maintain good control of their students, but in some cases the required classroom libraries, containing books of varying levels of difficulty, were quite messy -- with books stuffed haphazardly in bins or piled on the floor. Most rooms, however, were clean and organized.
In recent years enrollment has declined, owing mainly to the construction of new schools in the area. The lower register of students has helped PS 15, which does not receive any Title 1 funding (federal money for schools in high poverty areas), keep classes to manageable sizes. Without the benefit of Title 1 money to help fund tutoring services, the school has turned to technology to fill in the gap. "We have a very computer-oriented student population," said Newman. Every night, students in grades 3 though 5 log on to a Web site run by the Princeton Review test prep company for enrichment exercises in literacy and math. Student activity on the site is monitored, and classes with the highest level of student participation are rewarded such honors as being the first group allowed outside at recess time. "I get students to work extra at home without them realizing it," Newman said.
There are three computer labs: two dedicated to academic enrichment activities (one for math, the other for literacy) and one that is equipped with wireless technology and is used for teaching computer and research skills. In one technology class, children sat at computers listening to the teacher explain how to change the color of text in a document.
In addition to the core curriculum and technology training, students get instruction in music, gym, and science. Children also learn about money management and the value of savings through a program that, in partnership with a local bank, offers students the opportunity to open and make regular contributions to a passbook savings account.
Several classes are housed in a portable annex occupying a portion of the schoolyard. Though plans were not definite at the time of our visit, Newman expressed hope that he could house the entire student population in the main building beginning in September 2005, and soon thereafter remove the annex.
PS 15 is "school based option," a status that gives it a greater say over teacher hiring than schools typically have. A committee of faculty members, including Newman, interviews and hires teachers, rather than hiring teachers according to the seniority provision of the teachers' contract.
Special education: The school had two "self-contained" classes, only for children with special needs, at the time of our visit.
After school: Through the YMCA, the school offers a small program open to a select number of students based upon need. (Laura Zingmond, May 2005)