P.S./M.S. 282 Park Slope
Dynamic principal, multiracial PTO, room for children outside zone
Principal needs time to put his vision into practice
PS 282, with a dynamic principal and an active, multiracial Parent Teacher Organization, has long welcomed children from across Brooklyn. Now, it will have even more room for young children from outside its attendance zone: The Department of Education has decided to phase out the middle school grades, 6-8, and expand enrollment in PK-5 by more than 300 seats.
Rashan Hoke, named principal in 2014, is working to make the school more "child-centered" and less "teacher-centered." He'd like to see more time for children to explore their own interests and speak in class and less time spent listening to teachers. Teachers are invited to observe lessons at PS 154 and PS 321 two popular schools nearbyand receive training in the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Pre-kindergarten teachers work with colleagues from the well-regarded Helen Owen Carey pre-school across the street.
"Our principal works closely with the principal of PS 321," said PTO president Andrew Marshall. One result of the collaboration: the quality and quantity of children's writing has improved. "My daughter is doing a lot more writing, and more in-depth writing," Marshall said.
PS 282 is in the heart of one of Brooklyn's toniest neighborhoods, but more than half of its students come from outside the zone. In recent years, parents who live in the zoneprimarily white and upper middle classhave sent their children to PS 282 for early grades, but transferred them out by 2nd grade, opting for private schools or other public schools nearby. That's beginning to change with the arrival of Hoke, who is well-regarded by both parents and teachers, parents say.
Hoke, whose ancestry is Puerto Rican and South Asian, has helped bridge the divide between white and black parents and makes all parents feel valued, says Marshall, who is black. On our visit, a dozen parents of different races worked together in the PTO office on tasks such as fund-raising, writing a newsletter and updating the school website. The staff is diverse, as is the student body. "For my children integration is all they have ever known," said Lynn Almon, who is white.
The school has a gifted program open to children from across District 13. In practice, many of the children in the gifted program live in the school zone. However, because the school has so much space for out-of-zone children, the general education classes have children from as far away as Sheepshead Bay and Bay Ridge.
Some of the schools longtime strengths include a champion chess team, a rugby team, a drama program, and a software engineering program that teaches computer coding to 3rd- through 5th-graders. On our visit, we saw some classes in which children were happily engaged in their work, and a few in which children seemed distracted. The gifted classes seemed to have the most challenging work and the most imaginative lessons. For example, children in a gifted kindergarten class had a Halloween assignment where they wrote about what they were afraid of. "I am afraid of a ghost," one wrote. "I am afraid of pumpkin seeds," wrote another. The tone of the school was pleasant throughout; we didn't hear any of the yelling by teachers that we had heard on previous visits. Hoke acknowledges the school is a work-in-progress and that it will take time to carry out his vision.
The middle school, launched in 2008, struggled to find its academic footing. The DOE decided to phase it out beginning in 2017. Because of quirks in zoning, children who are zoned for PS 282, part of District 13, are eligible to attend District 15 middle schools and many take advantage of that option.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. District-wide gifted program. The school has long had room for children from outside the attendance zone. (Clara Hemphill, October 2016)
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Brooklyn NY 11217