J.H.S. 104 Simon Baruch

Phone: (212) 674-4545
Website: Click here
Admissions: neighborhood school/selective
Neighborhood: Gramercy Park
District: 2
Grade range: 06 thru 08
Parent coordinator: BLANCA RIVERA

What's special:

Lots of sports, drama and art.

The downside:

Inadequate high school guidance.

The InsideStats



Our review

MS 104 is a large neighborhood middle school with strong academics and lots of sports, drama, and art—including ceramics. It's open to everyone who lives in the zone (the East Side from 14th Street to 59th Street, as well as Tribeca and Battery Park City downtown), and serves a wide range of students, from those in honors classes to those receiving special education services.

Parents say the teachers, with a few exceptions, are energetic, sympathetic and dedicated--willing to come in early to offer extra help and to offer extra attention to children who are struggling. “The teachers even show up at the frequent PTA fundraising dances, to chaperone or run the sound system,” a mother told Insideschools. “The kids truly like their teachers.”

The school is divided into "houses" of four classes and four teachers who work as a team. Each house has one or two honors (also called special placement) classes, one or two regular "academic" classes, and classes for students in special education. Advanced students may take Regents-level math and earth science, courses usually offered in high school. Teachers have a regularly scheduled time to meet, so they may plan curriculum together as a team, or discuss individual students' issues. The social studies and English teachers plan their lessons together, so, for example, children may read Three Cups of Tea in English when they are studying Pakistan and Afghanistan in social studies.

“If you want a solid, traditional education this is the school for you,” a mother said.

The school is particularly strong in the arts. The art teacher spends the entire fall term working with 8th graders after school twice a week to prepare their portfolios for art-themed high schools.

Parents complain that high school counseling is inadequate, because one counselor must serve hundreds of 8th graders. Nonetheless, many students are admitted to the specialized high schools or to LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and the Performing Arts. District 2 high schools, including Baruch and Eleanor Roosevelt, are popular choices, as well.

A few parents complain that there is some rowdiness after school, with kids swearing or roughhousing outside after dismissal. Nearly one-quarter of teachers who responded to Learning Environment Survey said order and discipline could be improved. But the school has a low suspension rate and 90 percent of the parents responding to the survey say their children are safe. Principal Rosemarie Gaetani “runs a tight ship,” one mother said. “Safety has not been an issue for my daughter or her friends.”

Special education: The school has self-contained special education classes, as well as two collaborative team teaching (CTT) classes on each grade. CTT classes mix special needs and general education students and have two teachers, one of whom is certified in special education.

Admissions: Students who live in the zone are guaranteed a seat. Students who live outside the zone, but within District 2, may apply through the school choice process.

The principal declined our request to visit the school. This review is based on Department of Education data and interviews with parents. (Clara Hemphill, interviews, March 2012)

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