Academy of Public Relations

BRONX NY 10456 Map
Phone: (718) 665-8866
Admissions: District 7 priority
Principal: AMY ANDINO
Neighborhood: South Bronx
District: 7
Grade range: 06 thru 08
Parent coordinator: JOSSIE SANTISTEBAN

What's special:

Dynamic principal who grew up in the neighborhood

The downside:

Changing the culture of a building is hard work

The InsideStats


Our review

The school day at the Academy of Public Relations begins with a "press briefing," the name Principal Amy Andino gives to the morning meeting in the auditorium, attended by the whole school. She offers announcements, reads aloud from a book (Small Steps, the sequel to Louis Sachar's Holes, about a boy unjustly sent to a juvenile detention center), and asks students questions about the text. But the most popular event is the public recognition she gives to students or classes for their good work: "To 601, for following directions! To 602 for helping with clean up!" The children, dressed in white shirts and black pants, applaud and bask in the praise.

Opened in fall 2005, the Academy of Public Relations is one of two small schools housed in the building for one of the city's most unruly middle schools, IS 184, which is being closed because of poor performance. Andino, 32, is not quite sure who thought of the name of the school. "We're not teaching them to sell Pepsi Cola here," she said. "We're selling social awareness." For her, public speaking not PR is the key to children's success and one of her focuses is to encourage students to speak up in class.

Andino, who grew up just a few blocks away, still lives in the neighborhood. "I bump into parents in the supermarket," she said. She has a boundless optimism and a seriousness of purpose that's infectious. Children stop by her office to chat, and Andino says she is trying to give them a "different idea of what a principal can be. "I jump double Dutch with them at lunch," she said. In return, students warn her of potential incidents at the school. "So and so tells me 'they are going to jump me after school,'" she said. "Because of that relationship, we're able to nip [problems] in the bud."

Most students begin 6th grade with very weak academic skills, with many reading at a 2nd or 3rd grade level. The school has ordered easy-to-read books geared toward their interests such as "graphic" mysteries (similar to comic books) about the Loch Ness monster or biographies of baseball great Jackie Robinson. In an English class I visited, students wrote Haiku poems. In a science class, kids discussed air quality and the role of the Environmental Protection Agency. And in a math class taught in Spanish students worked on division problems such as 694 divided by 9. Kids seemed attentive and engaged, with none of the far-away stares or alienated slumping typical of city middle schools. Unfortunately, students from another school could be heard yelling in the halls. "That's the hard part of sharing the building," Andino said.

The other small school in the building is the South Bronx Academy of Applied Media.

Special education: The school has one "self-contained" class for special needs students.

After school: Tutoring is available with a ratio of one teacher for every three students.

Admissions: Students are admitted according to the "school choice" process for District 7. (Clara Hemphill, May 2006)







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