P.S. 204 Vince Lombardi
BROOKLYN NY 11228 Map
P.S. 204 Vince Lombardi
From the office staff to administration, teachers, and parents, PS 204 exudes friendliness, retaining the feel of a small neighborhood school even with a population of more than 1,000 students. A new building addition opened in 2000, but because more students keep enrolling, PS 204 is stretched for space and no corner is unused. Still, the school has such an inclusive feel that a small program there for hearing-impaired kids chose to stay put even when it was offered bigger digs elsewhere. It is telling that students in this program participate in the life of PS 204: At assemblies, recognizing that deaf children cannot hear applause, all the children wave their hands in the air instead of clapping.
Staff members meet at lunch to do their own professional development, and kids with good attendance dine with Principal Marie Reilly at special breakfasts. "I know the families very well," she says, a task made easier by the high degree of parental involvement. Parents raise money for everything from mundane items like vacuum cleaners to fun extras, such as a carnival for 5th graders. We saw moms working in and out of the classroom and helping out at lunchtime.
The school, which houses a gifted program for kids from throughout the district, attracts many high achieving students, but struggling kids get equal attention. A class of 4th-5th graders, identified as non-readers in 3rd grade, for example, is learning reading through a special phonics approach, the Wilson Method. We were impressed by two "inclusion" classes, where general education students and kids receiving special education services worked together in one classroom, overseen by two teachers who clearly wanted to be there.
Reilly has made small class size a priority. The "balanced literacy" curriculum, instituted citywide in 2003, was introduced at PS 204 four years earlier. Classrooms are lively and attractive, with projects on display. Many rooms have child-size rocking chairs and comfy beanbag chairs where kids settle in and read. In a school with a growing Chinese population, kids in one class were planning to cook a traditional meal to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Elsewhere, in a lesson about Martin Luther King, 2nd graders created puppets to represent what was unique about them. A wheelchair-bound boy who wore thick glasses used pipe-cleaners to make glasses for his puppet and wrote, "I am unique because I play basketball." (He is in the inclusion class.)
After-school: The school sponsors activities such as a drama club and test prep. The Brooklyn Chinese Association runs other programs.
Admissions: Kids are tested for the district's gifted program, called Delta, in the spring. (This school is featured in New York City's Best Public Elementary Schools. Pamela Wheaton, January 2004)