P.S. 87 William Sherman

160 WEST 78 STREET
MANHATTAN NY 10024 Map
Phone: (212) 678-2826
Website: Click here
Admissions: Neighborhood school
dual_language
Noteworthy
Principal: MONICA BERRY
Neighborhood: Upper West Side
District: 3
Grade range: 0K thru 05
Parent coordinator: MARGARET MARNER

What's special:

Strong teachers bring the city to life with creative projects and trips.

The downside:

Relationship between administration and staff could be better.

The InsideStats

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Our review

PS 87 has long been one of the most popular schools in District 3, known for its passionate teachers, active parents, commitment to the arts, and project-based academics in classrooms that mix children of all abilities. Parents chip in to plan fundraisers, help out on the playground and advocate to improve the quality of the food.

Hallways are filled with creative and inspired students work. Social studies units begin with the child and expand outward from "me" and "my family" to the neighborhood, city, state and world. Kids take trips to the Central Park Zoo, the botanical gardens and area museums. A 4th grade teacher begins with one big question: "What is Freedom?" and children explore this question as they study Native Americans and slavery. (The kids put Henry Hudson's first mate on "trial" for trespassing on native land.) A parent said these units incorporate "civics and history and math and science and parental involvement."

Although parents raise money for lots of extras, like chess, ballroom dance, yoga, and art, it's the quality of the teaching they praise the most: "We have consistently, outrageously strong teachers and I think this is why the shuffle of leadership hasn't affected us that much," said Rebecca Levey. Over the past decade the school has seen five principals come and go, which some attribute to bad luck (one principal was in an accident, one retired, the most recent left to lead a charter school) but others suggest is the flip side of an environment where teachers have lots of freedom and in some cases soar to cult-like status: "That teacher is kind of famous," said a parent as we exited a classroom on a tour.

Parents hope the leadership will stabilize with Monica Berry. She is credited with building a stronger relationship with the American Museum of Natural History, adding art in the upper grades and bringing in chess and a popular dance program. Still, only a minority of teachers feels that she has a clear vision for the school and gives them helpful feedback, according to the 2011 Learning Environment Survey. [In the 2012 Learning Environment Survey, two-thirds of the teachers said they mistrust the principal.]

Berry said she has made communication a priority. "We noticed that information seemed to travel through the parent community faster than the teacher community," she told us by phone. Initiatives to improve include more classroom visits followed by sit-downs with teachers to share feedback and better channels of communication via iPads and email. A parent said, "She's learning, doing what she can do, every year she's getting better."

For all the wonderful civics and history lessons, some parents and staff are distressed that PS 87 is becoming increasingly white and middle class. "I would like to see more diversity," said a parent of two from outside the zone. While the staff is racially diverse, it's hard to spot even one brown-skinned child in the lower grades since the rezoning. There is hope that over time an infusion of magnet grant money aimed at black-, white- and Hispanic-dominant schools in District 3 will make all the schools appealing enough to lure parents across color lines.

After school: Classes include fencing, knitting, Afro-Caribbean percussion, gymnastics, hip-hop, radio theater, judo, cooking, basketball, comics and softball. There is a fee for the after school program.

Special education: Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETSS) and Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) classes on every grade level.

Admissions: Zoned neighborhood school. Out-of-zone District 3 Kindergarten parents apply here. (Upon intake, a note is made if you are interested in dual language, but final decisions only occur once your child has been accepted to PS 87. No K children from outside the zone except siblings were accepted in 2011-12.) Out-of-zone District 3 grade 1-4 parents apply here. (Lydie Raschka, based on interviews with teachers, principal, and parents, and a prospective parent tour, January 2012, update August 2012)

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