P.S. 219 Kennedy King

Phone: (718) 342-0493
Admissions: Neighborhood school
Principal: Ms. Winsome Smith
Neighborhood: Brownsville
District: 18
Grade range: PK thru 05
Parent coordinator: ANTHONY GORDON

What's special:

Large, active parent group; staff with many years at the school.

The downside:

Fifth grade is housed in an annex; many families move yearly.

The InsideStats



Our review

PS 219 is considered an oasis in a neighborhood with few community centers. Although the school is very large , parents say they feel that they and their kids get individualized attention.

Principal Winsome Smith has spent many years at the school, as a teacher, staff developer, and assistant principal. Today, Smith gives faculty members yearly performance reviews and expects, in turn, that teachers give their students similar reviews, going over goals, accomplishments, and areas to work on for the year.

Smith would like to bring more consistency to the school. "I find that in the upper grades, there's more of a sense of urgency about performance," she said. "I want it to pervade the school, see that same urgency in the lower grades."

The school's size forced it to house the 5th grade in an annex three blocks away. Oversight is awkward an assistant principal spends only one day in the annex, which is headed by a lead teacher the rest of the week. Math coach Sharon Rich sees one advantage to the set-up, however. "It makes the transition to junior high better for the students," she said, adding that the reorganization also left enough room for teachers to do individualized and small-group work with students outside their regular classrooms.

The school is in the middle of a thriving neighborhood where most families are newly arrived from the Caribbean. About 90 percent of the school's population is West Indian from Trinidad, Jamaica, and Haiti. A challenge for the school is that many families move away throughout the year, so that annually about ten percent of the school's students relocate. "This seems to be a first stop," she said. "People establish themselves and leave."

In 2004, construction work in the gym on the third floor led to the danger of asbestos exposure, so between March and August of that year, the school had to operate out of PS 395. Teachers also had to get rid of schoolbooks. The upside is that they got brand new ones to replace them.

The school has launched initiatives aimed at developing students' character. Among them is "Caught Being Good," a monthly display that highlights students' good deeds.

Many members of the staff have long-standing ties to PS 219. One assistant principal attended the school, and half the teachers have more than 15 years of experience. A quarter have fewer than five years. Smith has brought in some retired teachers to work with lower grades.

During our visit, kindergartners in art class were working on a collage based on the work of African-American artist Romare Bearden. Third graders wrote essays discussing whether they'd like to live in urban, suburban, or rural communities.

"The community looks to us to put on events," said Smith. The result is frequent student shows. More than 150 parents show up regularly for PTA meetings, and dozens of parents attend workshops on subjects such as raising nonviolent children, cultural diversity, and technology. Parents were raising funds for the 5th grade graduation and a senior trip. Parents are very visible in the school and said they feel welcome to come in and go into the classrooms.

Special education: There are five "self-contained" classes (only children with special needs): one each for 5th and 4th; one for grades 2-3; one for 2nd grade, and one for grades 1-2. There are two "inclusion" classes (children with special needs and general education students together in a classroom headed by two teachers) in 2nd and 3rd grades. The classes moved up from kindergarten.

After school: Twice a week for half of the school year, 4th graders receive tutoring in reading and writing, and take test prep. The rest of the year, the session is dedicated to math. The program will be expanded to 3rd and 5th grades in the 2005-2006 school year. The school recently received a $50,000 grant for an arts program for grades 2-5. Classes are offered African drumming, dance, soccer, and tennis. There is a violin program for 3rd and 5th graders. (Carolina Gonzalez, January 2005)

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