M.S. 302 Luisa Dessus Cruz
BRONX NY 10455 Map
M.S. 302 Luisa Dessus Cruz
SEPTEMBER 2011 UPDATE: The new principal is Liza Ortiz.
MARCH 2003 REVIEW: M.S 302 was once, as locals say, "out of control." Students came and left as they pleased. Visits from the police were common. And the school seemed unable to shake off the effects of being located in a gang-ridden neighborhood. [In January 2006, the school was placed on the state's list of Schools Under Registration Review because of consistently poor academic performance.]
When new principal, Angel Rodriguez, came on board he brought his years of experience working with emotionally disturbed kids from PS 12, a special education school that serves kids with severe behavioral disabilities. He replaced 45 teachers and administrators who, he believed, did not share his vision. He put in place a new social services program to serve students who come from a dozen homeless shelters. He also trained teachers in how to better deal with parents and brought in Columbia University's "Linking Lives" program, which offers workshops for parents on such issues as drug abuse.
Rodriguez is skilled at watching out for signs that children are being lured into gang life. The school offers a Saturday program to help keep kids occupied with academics and allow for less time on the streets. Teachers keep a daily report of any incidents and pass it on to be read by the assistant principals, who contact parents and arrange to meet with them if needed. The school also has made social workers available to help parents with everything from academic issues to filling out social service paperwork. The result of all these efforts is that families are taking more interest in their kids' education: some 80% of MS 302 parents now show up for parent-teacher conferences.
The school accommodates a large immigrant population and offers bilingual classes on every grade. The downside to that, Rodriguez says, is that because parents feel more comfortable with the safety of ethnic similarity in bilingual education, they often push to have students remain there. Rodriguez fears that this can stymie an easy transition to English and he is now nudging more kids into monolingual classes once they meet the qualifications.
The next big task for MS 302 is to boost academic achievement. On our visit, we were disappointed to see a number of reports by 5th graders that were poorly written. To improve things, the school has already started using the reading program that the chancellor required most city schools to adopt beginning September 2003. And there are some early signs of change. The percentage of children scoring at the lowest level on standardized tests dropped from 60% to 40% over a one-year period, for example. The school also has a 5th grade magnet program with a large percentage of children -- 65% -- who have scored at Level 3, that is, at grade level or better. "This school never had 3's and 4's," Rodriguez says. "Now we are beginning to."(Jacquie Wayans, March 2003)