P.S. 297 Abraham Stockton
BROOKLYN NY 11206 Map
P.S. 297 Abraham Stockton
DECEMBER 2009 UPDATE: As of September 2009, James Brown, who was formerly an assistant principal at another school, has become principal of PS 297, replacing Maureen Garrity.
OCTOBER 2004 REVIEW: Located in the heart of Brooklyn's Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood, PS 297 is a school that serves students from two public housing complexes on either side of the school the Marcy and Tompkins projects. The school's population has dwindled in recent years, partially a result of gentrification on nearby Flushing Avenue. Still, the neighborhood is a gritty one. Students are not permitted outside to play in the large public playground beside the school because of safety concerns.
Maureen Garrity became principal in 2002 after more than 25 years at the school, first as a teacher and then as an assistant principal. She says that her first concern was to ensure students' safety while creating an orderly environment, and she seems to have made progress in this area. On the day of our visit, the school was clean and hallways were under control.
The school has made major changes over the last two years, transforming itself from a place where students were tracked by ability and seated in rows, to one where kids of all levels share their classrooms and teachers try out new lessons in which kids are encouraged to choose their own books according to their interests and skill levels. The upshot is positive in some ways: many classrooms are inviting, featuring rugs, bins of books, and desks in clusters so kids can work in groups. And some teachers we observed were leading productive lessons.
Many, however, were far less skilled. We observed several teachers who had difficulty settling their classes down between activities. We also saw several teachers speaking to students with a critical rather than encouraging tone.
As far as test scores go, the school has made some progress in the past few years. In 2004, it was removed from the state's list of schools that need to improve in English language arts.
The school's three-story rectangular building has so much space that several classrooms are unused, and it boasts a science and art room, as well as a nice auditorium and decent-sized cafeteria. Kids can play outside in a small play yard right beside the school. (Unlike the large play yard that is considered unsafe, this area is not open to the public.) The school also has a sizeable gym, and a noteworthy physical education program, introduced in fall, 2004. Called "Physical Best," the program focuses not only on sports, but on helping kids to develop a healthy attitude toward fitness and exercise.
The school's English language learner population has been growing in recent years, according to the principal. Greater numbers of Spanish-speaking students many the children of Mexican immigrants are arriving at the school. An English as a second language teacher helps Spanish-speaking children outside of their regular classrooms.
Special education: The school has two "self-contained" classes only for students who need special services, as well as "inclusion" classes that mix kids who have disabilities with those who don't. (Deborah Apsel, October 2004)