P.S. 36 Saint Albans School
QUEENS NY 11412 Map
P.S. 36 Saint Albans School
PS 36 is a neighborhood school where strict discipline rules. Students wear their school uniform each day, and both classrooms and the cafeteria are orderly. Students are well-behaved, work silently in their classrooms, and do not speak out of turn.
Building and Location: St. Albans, in Southeast Queens, is a middle-class neighborhood filled with large colonial and Tudor homes, some newer row houses, and a growing Afro-Caribbean immigrant population. PS 36 is located just off the intersection of Farmers and Linden Boulevards, long considered the heart of the neighborhood.
The school building is well-decorated and well-kept. Drawings of storybook characters, ranging from Roald Dahl's Twits to the protagonist of Ezra Jack Keats' Snowy Day decorate the school's stairwells. While the school has an auditorium and cafeteria, it lacks a gym. Physical education classes meet in a large, high-ceilinged and irregularly-shaped "multipurpose" room.
Behind the school's main building, a "temporary" building, constructed in 1973, houses 5th-grade classrooms and is home to the assistant principal's office.
School environment and culture: According to Principal Lynn Staton, discipline was a problem at the school when she arrived in 2006, and reining in rowdy behavior became her first priority. "Students have to practice acting like leaders," Stanton says. Clear discipline is now evident at the school, where students walk silently through the halls as Staton, who knows most students by name, reminds them to stay in line. Students know there are consequences for misbehavior; those who act up or do not complete homework assignments receive "lunch detention": they must eat lunch in their classrooms, or alone in Staton's office.
Staton introduced school-wide initiatives to foster community and unity. In addition to a book-of-the-month, each month the school chooses a country, state, and character trait to highlight in all classrooms. Students gather in the auditorium for regular assemblies that range in theme from team trivia to pudding-eating contests. The student council holds charity drives, such as collecting toiletries to donate to the nearby hospital for veteran's hospital, throughout the year. The last Friday of the month is a color-themed spirit day that gives students the opportunity to leave their uniform at home.
Teaching and Curriculum: In most classrooms, desks are clustered in small groups. In classrooms, students greeted the principal with smiles and waves. They were quiet and on task, whether engaged in math worksheets or writing "Woman of the Year" essays while jazz music played in the background. We noticed that student work tended to be formatted on formulaic worksheets, which were displayed in many classrooms.
PS 36 has both a full-time science teacher and a technology teacher. On the day of our visit, the computer lab was busy with students working on magazine covers featuring First Lady Michelle Obama. The school has an art teacher who circulates throughout the grades on a seven-week cycle, and a guitar-playing music teacher who sees each class once or twice a week. A social studies cluster teacher works with the 4th and 5th grades in preparation for the statewide social studies exam. Staton plans to introduce this cluster teacher to the lower grades so the students learn how to work with document-based questions.
Fridays are "club days" at the school, offering students enrichment for two periods. Club offerings include a school beautification club and a movie club, in which students read novels and then watch their on-screen adaptations. Last year, the cooking club, which exposes students to international cuisine, had the opportunity to attend a taping of Chef Emeril Lagasse's television show. Another club, made possible through a grant, offers students the chance to go on field trips throughout the city to gain "a panoramic view of NY." There is also a "Boys to Men" club that works with students with social and behavioral problems.
Also of note: Third-graders travel to nearby Roy Wilkins Recreation Center for swimming lessons once a week.
Special Education: There are a total of five self-contained special education classes. PS 36 takes part in District 75 inclusion program, so there are some high-needs students with paraprofessionals in general education classrooms. There is a fulltime speech therapist and part-time occupational and physical therapists. The school also has a guidance counselor, school psychologist, family worker and a social worker.
English Language Learners: The school has only a handful of ELL students. They are supported by a part-time ESL teacher who visits the school twice a week.
After school: PS 36 offers test preparation leading up to statewide exams and an enrichment program run by the ChaRosa Foundation, a neighborhood nonprofit. The school has a partnership with a local martial arts studio that provides free classes for PS 36 students.
Family Participation: According to the principal, there is very little parent participation at the school. Staton's no-nonsense attitude extends to the parents, as well. When dealing with an irate parent, she said, she gives the option of calming down and having a conversation, or scheduling an appointment for another day. (Cristin Strining, March 2009)