P.S. 54 Samuel C. Barnes
BROOKLYN NY 11205 Map
P.S. 54 Samuel C. Barnes
PS 54 sits in a somewhat forbidding cul-de-sac on the border between Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant, but parents and teachers see the school as a haven.
This is in part thanks to principal Glyn Oliver, who has led the school for 12 years and worked in the district her entire career. Strict yet affable, Oliver not only knows every student, but even knew parents who attended the school. "The principal's great," said Sonia Sepulveda, a former PS 54 student whose children are in 1st and 4th grades. She recalls Oliver's response when another child was bothering her daughter at the cafeteria: the principal saw to it that her daughter received an apology.
Oliver and several teachers live within walking distance of the school, giving them ample opportunity to interact with parents and kids outside of school. Many teachers also make themselves available at the school for meetings at hours more convenient for working parents, coming in at 7:00 am or leaving at 5:30 pm.
The principal and staff aim to offer an education that develops character as much as skills. "Respect" is considered the fourth "r" in the list of three more familiar ones. "We tell our students that they have to learn to respect yourself, and that's joined to the learning," said Oliver.
The green-and-yellow hallways are quiet, clean, and spare -- sadly, there's not a lot of student work on display. Many classrooms were very hot during our visit. Classes are small, and while some of the younger children were shy before visitors, most seemed enthusiastic about their lessons.
The day of our visit, a group of kindergartners listened to "Little Red Riding Hood" read by the librarian dressed as the title character. Third-grade classes calculated perimeters. A 1st grade class worked on completing the sentence "Ju-vonn likes to eat ____" with words that began with the letter "c."
PS 54 teachers have struggled to master the literacy and math curriculums used system-wide since 2003. This can be tough for the many instructors -- one-third of the staff -- who have taught fewer than five years. Fortunately, staffers said, their colleagues are always willing to help. "I go into the classroom of a teacher who's been teaching for 20 years, like Ms. [Roxanne] James, and I pick up lots of tips," said 2nd grade teacher Shondra Hayward.
Children learning English are sometimes pulled out of their regular classroom for work in the school's well-appointed English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) room, where everything is labeled in English.
Parents have long been a strong presence at the school, drawn by GED and ESL classes. Workshops for families, on subjects such as nutrition and budgeting, are well-attended. During our visit, a dozen parents discussed how to set limits for their kids.
Special education: In each grade -- except 3rd -- there is one "inclusion" class that integrates general education students with children with special needs. There are also three "self-contained" classes for children with special needs only.
PS 54 lacks many amenities -- teachers and parents would like more arts, for example -- but strong leadership and close relationships make everyone feel part of a united, focused community. (Carolina GonzÃ¡lez, November 2004)
NOTE: Glyn Oliver, the school's longtime principal, retired in March 2005.