P.S. 19 Asher Levy
MANHATTAN NY 10003 Map
P.S. 19 Asher Levy
PS 19 inspires loyalty among families, staff and administration, but it’s a school in transition and has a way to go toward reaching all students, especially learners at the top and the bottom of the spectrum. Principal Jacqueline Flanagan calls the 2010 addition of an ASD Nest program for high-functioning kids with autism spectrum disorder “a fantastic opportunity for the future of the school.” PS 19 shares a building with Technology, Arts, and Sciences Studio, a middle school.
Flanagan became principal in 2009 after considerable experience as assistant principal and technology teacher at PS 19 and as a classroom teacher. Uniforms, new procedures for parents and built-in daily planning time for teachers are some of her initiatives. An after-school class for grades 3–5 is offered to those who score Level 1 or 2 on standardized tests, below the state standard of Level 3. Those who need help with specific skills like verb tenses or math facts are grouped together for instruction. The bigger challenge is that more than half of the students need assistance in all areas. “A lot of our energy and thought goes into pushing 2’s to 3’s,” Flanagan said.
Flanagan dictates the flow of the day, assigns a school-wide book, and sometimes assigns topics for writing, like composing letters to American troops. “I’m very organized, and I like to give my staff templates and tools,” she said. She’s a booster for her staff, praising each one’s unique gifts while freely acknowledging there have been clashes at times, given her structured approach. On our visit she warmly greeted students and sent one droopy kid to the nurse, where the child was found to have a fever.
Teaching styles range from more traditional to progressive. The emphasis on improving academics is strong: pre-kindergartners chanted letter sounds, and kindergarten classrooms lacked the typical array of blocks and toys. The science teacher, a former staff member at the Science Museum of Long Island, displayed students’ hands-on projects, like a dinosaur skeleton they built from chicken bones. A special education teacher brought to life a weeklong theme of “respect” for seven attentive students. “Who is the kid you have seen who is not included at lunch or on the playground?” he asked. “You need to go up to that kid! Stand up for that kid!”
Marivette Cruz, a longtime aide and now parent coordinator, has seen a tightening of routines and expectations over her 20 years at the school. For example parents were once free to come and go in the building. Now only pre-K and K parents are allowed to escort their children inside in the morning. A handful of parents left the school in protest, but others like it. Parents may sit in on lessons once a month. “I was very rigid, and I’ve learned to let loose a little bit,” said Flanagan.
Special Education: ASD Nest kids eat breakfast and lunch in small groups and practice social skills until they feel ready to join others in the cafeteria. Staff praised the gym teacher for her adaptability with special needs students. There are four classrooms where special needs and general education students are mixed, with two teachers, one who is trained in special education, and two classrooms with 12 children taught by a special education teacher and a paraprofessional. Both Nest and general education parents are active in the PTA.
Admissions: DIstrict 1 choice. (Lydie Raschka, February 2011)