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 to make way for a newer, larger $66 million building. Along with 45 classrooms, a gymnasium, and an entranceway that incorporates the school's historic facade, PS 133 has an updated admissions policy designed to foster socio-economic and ethnic integration, including dual language programs in French and Spanish.
Instead of drawing students from its old District 13 zone, in 2013 the school began accepting pre-k and kindergarten students from across Districts 13 and 15 — a practice that is growing one grade each year. A third of seats are earmarked for students from District 13 and two-thirds for District 15. When the school is fully grown, it will include about 310 seats from District 13 (the same number it had as a zoned school) and about 565 from District 15. Thirty-five percent of all kindergarten seats are reserved for English Language Learners and children who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. The building is shared with a District 75 program for students with disabilities.
"We want to hold onto being a diverse community,” said Heather Foster-Mann, principal since 2007. "Children benefit from having friends who are from other backgrounds, especially socio economic."
PS 133 prides itself on providing a nurturing environment where a diverse group of students can feel comfortable and learn. "We go the extra mile to give them hugs and kisses," said Foster-Mann. Parents may go into classrooms the first Friday of every month and participate in lessons, followed by coffee and a chat with the principal. Teachers may also come to the meeting to talk to parents, for example explaining what the Common Core standards are all about.
The expansion and move to the new building brought in families from different neighborhoods and increased parental involvement. PTA meetings are packed and there are many committees, the parent coordinator said. Fund-raising has increased substantially. For example, parents pay for Studio in a School enabling PS 133 to offer art instruction to all grades.
The school adheres to the Leader in Me program, which incorporates the so-called "7 Habits of Happy Kids" and involves the entire school community, including families. "It gives a common language for everyone," said Foster-Mann. Teachers will say 'Are you thinking win-win?' It's integrated into curriculum. Children talk about 'filling each other's bucket' [with praise and kind thoughts]." Fifth-graders recite a quote of the week over the PA system, something they choose themselves.
In fact, children are given a lot of choices at PS 133, the principal said. "They're in charge of themselves. They're leaders."
On Friday afternoons, the whole school participates in clubs. Teachers, and sometimes parents, choose what they want to teach, and students choose what they want to study. Options change but may include yoga, dance, art, games, robotics and knitting, the parent coordinator told us. There is a cooking club for pre-k students and a "Cookshop" for parents once a month.
The University Settlement community organization provides free after school and summer enrichment programming. Kids Orbit also runs a fee-based program at the school for pre-k students. Parents lead a few clubs such as a French Club on Fridays.
The principal said the school "is good at giving children what they need" and adjusting for the difference in learning styles. Some classrooms may assign three different kinds of homework, for example or give out different lists of spelling words. Volunteers from New York Cares come in the early morning to work on math games with small groups of children; students in a dual-language French class, who had finished their book reports sprawled on the floor playing a game of Scrabble. But, compared to its wealthier Park Slope neighbors, the school still has a way to go toward improving academic achievement. Test scores are below average for the city.
Despite its mandate to give priority to English Language Learners and outreach efforts in ethnic enclaves such as Sunset Park, in 2014 the school had only 15 students who were officially classified as ELLs. Many new immigrants in District 15 live far from the school and prefer to keep their children near their home, the parent coordinator said. Students in the French dual language classes are taught by two different teachers, in English one day and French the other. Dual language Spanish classes are taught by bilingual teachers. An ESL teacher gives Spanish lessons to all students who aren't in dual language classrooms.
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, and it continues to offer ICT classes on most grades. It also offers a self-contained class for students in grades 3 – 5.
Admissions: Lottery for Districts 13 and 15. Students apply to the dual language program separately. Those who list French or Spanish as their native language are assessed by a language teacher prior to admission. (Pamela Wheaton February 2014)