Hamilton Heights School
MANHATTAN NY 10031 Map
Hamilton Heights School
AUGUST 2011 UPDATE: As of Aug.1,2011 Hamilton Heights has a new principal: Nicky Kram Rosen. She previously worked in District 3 and in the Gifted & Talented program office at the Department of Education. She did her principal internship at the Muscota School.
2011 REVIEW: PS 368 Hamilton Heights School emphasizes social awareness, respect, and a welcoming school culture. Each Friday there is a vibrant schoolwide sing-along that incorporates many songs devoted to social awareness and community. The school embraces diversity, and Principal Alva Buxenbaum and parent coordinator Bertilia Diaz actively reach out to local nursery and day-care programs to build their diverse student body. That objective is also reflected in the teaching staff, which includes two male early elementary teachers.
Hamilton Heights began in 2002 as a program at PS 28. In 2007 it gained official status as a K-5 school, PS 368 Hamilton Heights School. In 2010 HHS moved about 20 blocks south and now shares space with PS 153. When we visited, scaffolding around the building marred its outside appearance, but inside the halls were clean and bright, and the overall tone was inviting. The shared space has presented some facility challenges: because of restricted gym and play-yard access, physical education classes often take place in the classroom. Still, the administration and staff make the most of the space they have and are grateful that, rather than being split between two buildings, grades K-5 now are housed under one roof on the second floor.
The school has a progressive academic approach with an emphasis on project-based learning. Teachers have successfully created an open and collaborative learning environment. Some classrooms were a little disorganized and at times the pace seemed a bit slow, but overall students were engaged and happy. The school strives to develop creative thinkers, who are self-motivated and share responsibility for their learning. On the day of our visit one teacher was highlighting the importance of self-editing, and many classrooms were engaged in group activities.
Principal Buxenbaum, who has been at the school since 2007, has set progressive academic goals with an increased focus on rigor. Her path to achieving those goals is through effective planning and organization. She creates a useful weekly staff bulletin and, as evidenced during our visit, maintains a strong, open relationship with staff and students. Teachers meet in instructional teams of five once a week and have common planning periods throughout the week. The staff meets at the end of each school year to review and plan for the following academic year. There is also a staff retreat in the summer. Teachers and staff are happy, and a number of the founding teachers are still on staff. One of the 4th-grade teachers has chosen to send her daughters to the school.
Students in all grades take music and physical education. Grades 2 to 5 receive science instruction from a full-time science teacher, while the younger grades are taught by their classroom teachers in consultation with the science teacher. Due to budgetary constraints the school had to forgo an art instructor, but the parent association tries to sponsor art programming.
Hamilton Heights is impressively welcoming to parents. Parent coordinator Diaz is full of energy and available to parents. Family potlucks are part of the school culture. On the day of our visit I spoke with numerous parents who were attending the sing-along. Parents actively fundraise for additional programming and supplies, and contributed to a grant that brought an art program to the 2nd-grade classes. In addition to the PA, Friends of Hamilton Heights holds nonprofit status and raises money, most recently with a talent show.
Approximately one-third of the Hamilton Heights students are English language learners. Two classroom teachers are certified to teach English as a Second Language; a full-time ESLand special ed certified teacher, serves children in small groups outside the classroom.
Special Education: The number of students with IEPs doubled from the 2009-2010 school year to 2010-2011. Students receive services within the classroom and in small groups when necessary. There are no self-contained special education classes. The school has a reading recovery teacher, a part-time speech therapist, and a learning specialist. Students in need of occupational therapy receive services outside of school. A guidance counselor is on site two days per week and helps families arrange for services.
Admissions: Open to all District 6 students. Parents/caregivers must attend a tour of Hamilton Heights and then complete an application. In March the school holds a lottery for available spots. (Sharon McCann-Doyle, April 2011)