J.H.S. 88 Peter Rouget
BROOKLYN NY 11215 Map
J.H.S. 88 Peter Rouget
Don’t be discouraged by MS 88’s squat, institutional exterior; the inside of the school is colorful and fun, with a welcoming staff and polite students. Student artwork and pictures of their smiling faces liven up the walls while yellow chairs in the auditorium and purple tile on the first floor add more cheer.
There are gifted classes for strong students, classes for new immigrants learning English and plenty of extra help for children with disabilities. The parent coordinator and some of the office staff speak Spanish.
Despite the school’s size, there is a strong sense of community. The camaraderie allows some students to blossom, like the son of Lisa Librera. She said her son, who receives special education services, struggled in elementary school, and was very shy. At MS 88, he came out of his shell and excelled academically. “It’s the teachers here,“ she said.
MS 88 has a dedicated and friendly staff. During our visit, teachers were constantly popping into Principal Ailene Altman Mitchell’s office to ask for her opinion. Mitchell fosters collaboration among her staff (she says one positive side effect is that the school has produced over four marriages in recent years). Many teachers come in early to meet with students and stay at school late to work on projects with other teachers, or to host after-school activities for students, like a cooking club.
The students at MS 88 are polite and well behaved. There are no bells to signal class changes but students patiently bide the time in a line outside their next classroom, reading books. In class, most students were paying attention to their lessons or engaged with group work.
Teachers and administrators plan creative interdisciplinary projects, like creating comic books in Spanish to exercise art, writing and foreign language skills. A huge papier mâché dragon on display in the library was one product of a collaboration between special education, math and history classes. Another project takes students on a field trip to Queens Museum of Art to learn about the City’s water supply and back to the school to test their own drinking water. During our visit, a special education class visited nearby Prospect Park to collect water samples from the pond.
MS 88 is structured into three smaller institutes, with about 300 students each: School of Media Arts and Technology, Medical Health Careers and the School for Integrated Studies through the Arts. Each house has its own floor of the building but all share the facilities like the gym, cafeteria, library and computer labs (one stationary lab and seven mobile labs). Students get recess everyday after lunch. Since the school is near the Prospect Expressway, students are not allowed to leave school grounds. Instead they play in the school’s enclosed courtyard, which also has a greenhouse.
Students have gym three times a week. They take a foreign language and an elective class three to five times a week. Students in the Medical Health Careers program may to do research at New York Methodist Hospital or work as interns at the Cobble Hill Nursing Center.
In 2002, MS 88 was placed on the state’s list of worst schools. When Mitchell became principal in 2004, she replaced most of the staff. Many of the teachers she hired eight years ago are still at the school. Students test scores have improved, as well. Reading scores on state tests have gone up but are still a bit below the city average. Math scores are solid. Eighth graders may take the Regents exam in biology or algebra, and Ms. Mitchell proudly reported that all of her 8th graders who took the 2011 Regents exam in math passed the test. Popular high schools for MS 88 graduates are High School of Telecommunications Arts and Techonology, Midwood High School, Edward R. Murrow, Leon M. Goldstein and Sunset Park High School, in the neighborhood. Fewer than 10 percent of MS 88 students go on to specialized high schools.
MS 88 students may participate in a wide array of after-school activities, including a cooking club, yearbook, bike club, New York Road Runners, a rock band, visual arts and comic book clubs and group sports like flag football.
Special education: About 100 students receive special education services. There are seven Collaborative Team Teaching classes, seven self-contained classes and several classes for students of English as Second Language. There is also an occupational therapy room.
Admissions: District 15. Students must be interviewed to be eligible for admission. Mitchell leads tours for prospective parents and students twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday, contact the school for more information. (Anna Schneider, October, 2011)