P.S. 96 Joseph Lanzetta

Phone: (212) 860-5851
Admissions: Neighborhood school
Principal: Betty Lugo
Neighborhood: East Harlem
District: 4
Grade range: PK thru 08
Parent coordinator: SONIA KEMP

What's special:

Proud, enthusiastic students; principal committed to engaging families

The downside:

Uneven teaching

The Inside Stats



Our review


PS/MS 96 is a large K-8 school united by a sense of mutual respect. Classes are focused on teacher-led instruction and students remain engaged in most lessons. Collaboration is promoted. Students and faculty acknowledge a history of disciplinary issues but see major improvements.

Building and location: The school is housed in a large, factory-like building in East Harlem. Its exterior is uninviting, but its interior is clean and colorful. The hallways are quiet and orderly. 

School environment and culture: Teachers and students expressed optimism about the vision of the school’s principal, Noel Rios who arrived in 2009. Rios’ vision is based on forging mutual respect among staff members and students. He keeps the door to his office open as a symbol of his desire to engage families. 

At a gathering of 1st graders, students listened intently to each other and clapped for their peers. When another class arrived, they did not distract the other students. At the middle school level, it is apparent that appropriate behavior is expected, but not at the expense of enthusiasm. 

Students said there were a lot of problems with fighting prior to Rios' arrival. Teachers are cautiously optimistic that things are better now. One veteran teacher said the school is again becoming a safe and orderly environment. Strategies for conflict resolution have been promoted among faculty and staff.

Teaching and curriculum: Research-based curriculum models are employed throughout the school. Everyday Math is used and teachers have been trained in the Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop model. There is an effort to align writing themes across all grade levels. A 3rd-grade teacher used overhead transparencies to demonstrate sentence patterns. Students used these examples to create their own original sentences. We observed a 1st-grade “Publishing Party,” where students and read books they had written to their classmates. Some special education students receive extra instruction in phonics.

Most of the lessons that we observed were led by teachers, with students working on assignments at their desks. For the most part, students kept up with instruction and completed assigned tasks. However, in one middle school science class, students were assigned independent book work, but were not actively monitored by the teacher. The assignment seemed to serve little purpose and the science lab was not properly utilized.

Partnerships and programs: A partnership with the CYO/Manhattan Youth Baseball Academy provides the school with its own team. The school is working to secure a sponsorship through VH1's Save the Music Program to purchase electric keyboards.

Special education: About 15 percent of students receive special education services.  There are some pull-out programs and a Collaborative Team Teaching class.

English language learners: There are 54 English Language Learners supported though ESL classes. The majority of ELLs speak Spanish.

After school: Students get help on homework and take part in physical education activities with The Urban Dove program. The school features a choir and band. 

Family involvement: There is a core group of active parents, but a lack of parent participation was cited by teachers and staff as a major challenge. The Parent Teacher Association has just 15 committed members. PTA fundraisers include school dances and a holiday toy drive. The PTA also supports a Bullying Prevention initiative for the elementary grades. 

Parent Coordinator, Sonia Kemp organizes outreach programs to bring parents into the school, including a community fair bringing in representatives from organizations to educate parents about insurance and banking services and domestic violence intervention programs.

Admissions: Zoned school. Middle school priority is given to students who attend the school’s elementary grades.

After Graduation: In the past, many middle school graduates attended Norman Thomas High School – now that school is being phased out. (Brian Farmer, November 2009)


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