BRONX NY 10460 Map
SEPTEMBER 2008 UPDATE: David Citron became principal in September 2008, replacing Joy Elaine Daley.
MAY 2004 REVIEW: Set behind a cluster of trees in a pleasant courtyard with picnic tables and benches, PS/MS 214 is a refreshing refuge in a typical urban neighborhood. The building is clean and child-friendly. Inside are displays of children's works inspired by African and Japanese culture. Ivy plants trim window ledges and soothing music plays in the main office.
In 2000, the school was crowded and disorderly. "This place was hell," Principal Joy Daley said. "We had a dozen teacher vacancies and a high [teacher] absentee rate. Kids were setting fire to bulletin boards." Parents wandered in and out of the building at will. Daley initially encountered resistance to her Joe Clark "Lean on Me" tactics from parents who objected to attempts to bring order by keeping them out of the building. In one case, parents called local television news to complain that she used a chain and padlock at the entrance to exclude parents whom she considered disruptive. "You cannot be weak," Daley said. "You must have some conviction and know why you're here."
Today, the school is orderly and teacher morale is up. To help boost the children's feelings of self-worth, Daley increased the focus of the school name the Lorraine Hansberry Academy and the building is covered in murals honoring the acclaimed author of A Raisin in the Sun. On our visit, we saw students working amicably in groups and participating well in class. In science, kids donned goggles to inspect undigested owl food and then determine and classify an owl's typical diet.
Children in pre-k through 2nd grade learn reading through "balanced literacy," an approach using both phonics and "whole language." The kids also get lots of hugs and care and giggle at the special names the principal calls them such as 'sugar dumplings'. Grades 3 through 5 focuses on technology and science, while 6th, 7th and 8th graders learn about the performing arts. Music instruction keyboard, recorder are part of the curriculum, as is art. The school has an association with the New York City Ballet that allows students to view performances and audition for classes. The administration is inviting off-Broadway productions, still in development stage, to use the school's auditorium (newly renovated thanks to the generosity of a former producer of the hit television series "Sex in the City") for rehearsals in the hopes that students will be allowed to view productions. The school is also the only only school in the borough with a homeland security alert system and weather station on site.
However, the picture is not all rosy. A 3rd grade teacher told us that she spent half of the school year trying to get students caught up on 2nd grade work and that some kids still could not do simple addition and subtraction. Another teacher said too many parents remain uninvolved in their children's education and that even when promotion-in-doubt letters go home, some parents never respond. Daley, who did not hold back during our visit when referring to truants and problem students she called 'bad eggs', acknowledged that "We are not without our share of low performers and behavioral problems".
Still, most teachers seem to enjoy the school and to be committed to their jobs. We were impressed that they also seem to get a lot of support. When a teacher told a 3rd grade student with illegible handwriting that she had to rewrite a piece of work, the principal immediately backed up the teacher and asked the girl to show her the finished work later in the day. Students who have difficulty with numbers can attend a breakfast math workshop, and the school has received funding for teachers and aides to work one-on-one with students who need this kind of attention. Parent math workshops are offered too, in this Beacon school, which is open until 9:00 p.m. (Jacqueline Wayans, May 2004)