P.S. 24 Spuyten Duyvil
BRONX NY 10463 Map
P.S. 24 Spuyten Duyvil
Situated on a shady block across the street from a public library and quaint park, PS 24 boasts one of the most diverse and vibrant arts programs in the area and has amenities that many schools only dream of.
Lunchtime clubs include chess, Spanish, art, band, drama, gardening, KenKen (similar to Sudoku), photography, running and intramural sports. Partnerships with cultural organizations allow children to learn keyboard, play in an orchestra and go on trips to museums and concerts.
While many so-called extras at schools across the city have been eliminated due to budget cuts, PS 24's extremely active parents' association, which raises upward of $50,000 a year, has softened the blow. The school has a large library staffed by a librarian, a battery of school aides, two playgrounds (not counting the one across the street in the park), an outdoor mural and gardening area, an auditorium, a gym, a lunch room, two art rooms, an updated science lab and additional school supplies and books that are purchased through fundraising.
Donna Connelly became principal in 2009, replacing a man whom teachers had accused of religious proselytizing. Connelly made staff changes that have made her unpopular with some teachers. She acknowledges that she was "hardcore" when she first entered PS 24, swiftly eliminating unnecessary overtime and midlevel administrators and limiting the use of microphones in the cafeteria and the oft-abused PA system.
The squabbling within the school, however, hasn't stopped parents from enrolling their children en masse. PS 24 had to add an additional kindergarten class in 2011, despite that it had already overflowed into an annex across the street. Fifth grade classes can be as large as 30.
Although PS 24 is located in the affluent Riverdale section of the Bronx, its student body is diverse. When we visited, Connelly reported that 43 different languages and countries were represented in the school. More than a fifth of the students were in special education. The school also has a district gifted and talented program, which is routinely filled to capacity. English language learners, who account for about 6 percent of the student body, are integrated into general education classes but also work together in small groups.
Overall, the brightly lit school, which has a slightly confusing layout due to its split-level building, is calm but upbeat, with walls that are completely covered in artwork. The classrooms, which feature library and play areas, are well managed, and the teachers are passionate about their students and lessons. Students approach each of the two administrators—Connelly and Manny Verdi, both of whom specialize in conflict resolution—freely and without hesitation.
Teachers are not afraid to split their classes up into different activities to make the lesson more dynamic. Sometimes, Verdi said, a group will go to the guided reading room and the rest of the class will stay behind. When we visited, one teacher had a portion of her class working on projects in the hallway. Overall, the classes were quiet and controlled while students moved around freely and interacted with each other and the teacher.
The teachers themselves are a mix. Some are longtime veterans; others came in with the new administration and were hired because they share Connelly's child-centered educational philosophy.
Special education: The school has integrated and self-contained special education classes. When we visited, there was one self-contained class for students in kindergarten through 2nd grade and separate classes for 4th and 5th graders.
Admission: Zoned. District-wide gifted program. (Nikki Dowling/The Riverdale Press, October 2011)