P.S. 40 Augustus Saint-Gaudens

Phone: (212) 475-5500
Website: Click here
Admissions: Neighborhood school
Neighborhood: Gramercy Park
District: 2
Grade range: PK thru 05
Parent coordinator: JULIETTE KNIGHT

What's special:

Experienced, dedicated teachers, involved parents & high student achievement

The downside:

Small science room, high rents in this desirable school zone

The InsideStats



Our review

If you want to know how much parents like PS 40, don't look at DOE surveys (which, by the way, are quite positive). Instead, look at rents in the neighborhood. Family-size apartments within the PS 40 zone cost far more than identical units outside the zone, largely because parents are willing to pay extra to send their children to this high-performing elementary school.

"There is a commitment here from everybody that is unsurpassed," said Susan Felder, principal at PS 40 since 2004. You hear that from nearly every principal, but a tour of the school makes you believe Felder might be telling the truth. Teachers seem dedicated, parents appear happy, kids from a diverse range of backgrounds are performing at high levels, and the administration has a door-is-always-open attitude that fosters a positive vibe. Ask anyone, "What would you change about this school?" and most are stumped for an answer.

PS 40 takes up the bottom three floors of a historic five-story building near Gramercy Park, close to Stuyvesant Town. The building was enlarged decades ago, creating two joined halves that enclose a turf-coated courtyard where recess is held. Young children also take breaks in a rooftop play area with views of Manhattan. "We really believe in a lot of physical activity," Felder said.

Colorful, kid-friendly classrooms are crammed full of supplies and decorated with lesson plans and examples of student work. PS 40 shares the building with a middle school, Salk School of Science, but students from the two schools have minimal contact with each other.

Teachers have 10 years of experience on average and get high praise from the principal. "They come early. They stay late. They collaborate with each other over lunch," Felder said. "They have an excellent work ethic ... and they know we have high expectations for each other." Kindergarten teacher Roni Morris, who has been at PS 40 since 1979, said she continues to work even though she could retire. "It's a wonderful school," Morris said.

Many view PS 40 as a vital part of a close-knit neighborhood. A local Starbucks features student artwork, and new teachers get an orientation tour of the neighborhood so they see where their students live. Parents say teachers create a warm, nurturing environment. "I really, truly trust them. And I think they're doing an amazing job," said Jana Ross, co-president of the PTA, which raises about $300,000 a year. Several parents said they moved in order to live in the PS 40 zone. Class sizes, once enviably small, are now average for New York City.

The school has a nice library and modern computer lab but a cramped, bare-bones science room and balky plumbing. The TERC math curriculum is unpopular with some parents who would like to see more basic arithmetic taught, but Felder believes its approach helps students better understand math and find different ways to solve problems. The school has full-time art and music teachers, both "quite outstanding," Felder says.

Reading is emphasized, and each student has a logbook to record what books he's read. A morning "readers theater" involving 2nd-graders drew a healthy audience of parent visitors. Kids in grades 4 and 5 get dance training through Alvin Ailey and the National Dance Institute.

Kindergartners and 1st-graders get weekly lessons in Spanish. Second- and 3rd-graders can take Spanish during the "extended day" period, and 4th- and 5th-graders can choose to take Spanish classes. "We're able to offer it in some way K through 5," Felder said.

Special education: Each grade has integrated co-teaching (ICT) classrooms where students with special needs are mixed with general-education students. About 10 percent of PS 40's students have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that identify special needs. Kids who need extra help can also work with tutors.

After school: The PTA sponsors an after school program in partnership with Wingspan Arts. Clubs and activities last until 6 p.m.

Admissions: Neighborhood school. There are two half-day pre-k classes. (Skip Card, January 2012)

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