P.S. 133 William A. Butler
BROOKLYN NY 11217 Map
P.S. 133 William A. Butler
There are big changes at PS 133, located on rapidly gentrifying 4th Avenue. Its historic building was demolished in 2010 to make way for a new, larger $66 million building, opened in 2013. Along with the 45 classrooms, a gymnasium, and an auditorium that incorporates the school’s historic facade, PS 133 has a new admissions policy designed to foster integration. [Photo by Gotham Schools]
Instead of drawing students from its old zone in District 13, the school accepts students from across District 13 and District 15. A third of seats are earmarked for students from District 13, and 30 percent of kindergarten seats are reserved for English language learners and children who quality for free or reduced-price lunch.
“We wanted to make sure if you couldn’t afford to live in expensive homes in Park Slope, it didn’t matter,” Principal Heather Foster-Mann told Gotham Schools. “If you live on the other side of District 15 or if you were coming from Sunset Park and you spoke a foreign language, you can come to our school and it would be fine.”
District 13 will get about 310 seats, the same number it has had as a small zoned school, and District 15 will have 565 students. The building is shared with a District 75 program for students with disabilities.
While its new home was under construction, PS 133 was located in a parochial school building, St. Thomas Aquinas. The school added a popular French dual language program in 2011 and a Spanish dual language in 2012. For both French and Spanish the goal is for 50 percent of the incoming students to be native English speakers and the other 50 percent native French or Spanish speakers.
The school prides itself on providing a nurturing environment where a diverse group of students can feel comfortable and learn. On our last visit to the old PS 133 building, several teachers played classical music softly in the background, and in some classes, students kept track of their goals in colorful little envelopes attached to their desk.
The principal is driven, organized and intent on constantly improving the school. "Ms. Heather Foster-Mann is an overachiever," said one parent, admiringly. A 5th grade student explained further. "The principal, she is not mean but she is persistent to make everyone good. She said everyone here is a family and if we are failing, she gives us a chance to stay after school but she expects you to catch up."
A long time teacher said that the principal had made many improvements to the school, including "more disciplined work toward clear, focused goals, and more teacher training. Every teacher knows what is expected of him or her."
The principal has encouraged her staff to help her apply for every grant, program, or politicians' aid that can bolster the school's budget. "If it is free, we go for it," said the principal. A list of organizations that have supported the school include a local congressman, New York Cares, St Francis student interns, Merrill Lynch, VH1 Save the Music, and most notably University Settlement, which provides the afterschool and summer programming in the building.
On Friday afternoons, the whole school participates in clubs. Teachers choose what they want to teach and students choose what they want to study. Many children mentioned these activities as their favorite part of the week. Options in 2012-2013 include chess, yoga, dance, art, games, robotics and knitting, the parent coordinator told us. There is a cooking club for pre-k students.
Compared to its wealther Park Slope neighbors, test scores are only about average for the city and attendance is below average.
After school: The community organization, University Settlement provides free after school and summer enrichment programming that parents praised as "really excellent." Kids Orbit also runs a program at the school for pre-school students, the parent coordinator said.
Special education: The school was the first elementary school in District 13 to have a "collaborative team teaching" (CTT) (now called Integrated Co-Teaching) class on every grade, according to the principal, and it continues to offer ICT classes on most grades.
English Language Learners: In an unusual agreement with the Department of Education, the school will give priority in admissions to 30 percent of the applicants who are learning to speak English or are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. In 2012 the school had very few students who were officially classified as English Language Learners but many come from Spanish-speaking households.
Admissions: Lottery for districts 13 and 15, with priority going to English Language Learners students or those who are eligible for free or reduced priced lunch. (Lindsey Whitton Christ, October 2008; updated Pamela Wheaton, web reports & interviews, December 2012, Gotham Schools, August 2013)