P.S. 29 John M. Harrigan
BROOKLYN NY 11201 Map
P.S. 29 John M. Harrigan
UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2012: After 10 years at the school, Principal Melanie Raneri Woods retired in August, 2012. Rebecca Fagin, PhD, was named interim acting principal. She was most recently an assistant principal at Mott Hall II in Manhattan for four years. Prior to that she was a classroom teacher who began her career with Teach for America. She earned her masters degree and doctorate of education in public school leadership from Columbia Univerisity Teachers College.
2011 REVIEW: Located in upscale Cobble Hill, PS 29 is an anchor in the community. It features strong arts and science programs, stable leadership, and parents who contribute enormous amounts of time, talent and money.
The population includes children whose parents could easily afford private schools and those who live in housing projects. Parents are welcome: they drop off their kindergartners in the classrooms, lead lunchtime “brown bag” activities, run the after-school program, and even pay for assistant teachers. The PTA raises an eye-popping $800,000 a year for art programs, supplies, teacher training, and specialty teachers.
Classrooms are lively. In a kindergarten classroom filled with blocks and LEGOs, children were starting their own post office, writing letters and making stamps to practice sending and receiving “snail” mail. In a 2nd grade math lesson, children made bar graphs after interviewing one another about such things as the number of siblings, pets, pairs of shoes, or hair color. Children work in groups at tables as the teacher circulates among them. There are more “hands-on” activities than typical test prep. “We don’t test prep until we get close to the test,” Principal Melanie Raneri Woods told prospective parents at an open house. [Raneri Woods retired in September 2012].
The science rooms – one for the upper grades and one for the lower grades -- are filled with plants and animals—including a tarantula, the most popular “pet” choice, the teacher said. Children sow seeds indoors and plant them in the outdoor family garden.
Kids get a say in what they learn: In 10-week “cool clusters” led by staff and parents, students may choose to make ice cream, make prints and films, explore nature or jump Double-Dutch. Parents lead occasional “brown bag” lunch activities – one sample topic – “dissecting a cow’s eye.”
The building is old with a quirky heating system (on a freezing January day, the windows in one overheated classroom were wide open). Some toilets have hard to flush discs and the “gym” is really a low-ceilinged double-sized classroom, although children also play in two large rooms near the school entrance and cafeteria.
What the building lacks in indoor recreational space, it makes up for outside. A spectacular, well-used school yard includes a running track, a chess board, climbing equipment, a soccer field, telescope and more.
Formal phys ed classes are offered only once a week but the principal said teachers bring movement into the classroom and some even take kids out for a 10-minute daily run around the track.
The large library has shiny Mac computers; two carts of laptops are used by the older students. There is a band and chorus and the art room is well-equipped and crammed with interesting stuff.
“I have the most beautiful room. I do not want for any supplies,” said Kristen Adamczyle, art teacher and PS 29 parent “Yesterday I asked for paper towels and baby wipes and this morning I had a mountain of them in the middle of the room.”
Class size is about 24 in the lower grades and goes up to 28-30 in 4th and 5th. The PTA pays for assistant teachers in kindergarten. Photos show older students reading with younger ones in a “learning buddy program.” Children who need extra help come in at 8 a.m. for support.
Special education: There is an integrated co-teaching class on every grade and one self-contained class.
After school: Parents run a fee-based afterschool “Kids Club” from 3 to 6 p.m. There are a wide range of activities listed on the school’s website.
Admissions: Zoned students only. Pre-k is usually filled by siblings of current students. Occasionally, in August, there are a few openings for incoming kindergartners from outside of the zone. Addresses are checked very carefully and the school personnel even conducts home visits if they suspect a falsehood. In 2011 one family was dismissed for lying about their address. Unzoned children are not accepted after kindergarten. (Pamela Wheaton, January 2011)