P.S. 40 Samuel Huntington
Rich extra-curricular activities and academic support
Behavioral problems with children and some parents
SEPTEMBER 2011 UPDATE: The Panel for Education Policy approved the petition to truncate PS 40 due to persistently low performance. In 2010, only 37% of middle school students were on grade level in math, and only 25% were on grade level in English. Beginning fall 2011, the school no longer serves 6th grade. The school now serves students in grades PK-5.
JANUARY 2007 UPDATE: Tanya Walker's last day at PS 40 was January 26.The new principal isAdrienne Lloyd.
SEPTEMBER 2006 UPDATE: Tanya Walker, a graduate of the Leadership Academy, a training program for aspiring principals, became principal before the 2006-2007 school year.
MARCH 2005 REVIEW: In spring 2003, PS 40 was removed from New York State's list of schools that have performed so poorly that they are in jeopardy of being shuttered. Since then, students have made slow but steady academic gains and the school has introduced rich extracurricular activities. The principal is working to improve the overall tone in the building, beginning with her declaration of the front office as a "no-swear zone." Still, major obstacles remain in a school where some students are disruptive and some parents behave worse than their children.
A school on the state list -- known as SURR, for School Under Registration Review -- must adopt an improvement plan. Afterwards, the school is monitored closely by the state, and if it fails to improve in three years, it can be shut down. While on the list, PS 40's curriculum left little room for anything apart from math and literacy, said Jeanne Roberts-Turner, who became principal in fall 2003. Many children were frustrated, she said, with the narrow academic focus, so she increased the number of special subjects. All children now receive art, music, physical education, and computer every week. The new schedule has boosted student morale, she said.
PS 40 uses the city-mandated math and literacy curriculums. During our visit, we watched 6th graders edit classmates' essays on "The Person I Admire Most." Computer students, 3rd through 6th grade, were learning Web page design. A 4th grade science class identified minerals with magnifying glasses, and a kindergarten gym class formed vowels with their bodies to a musical "fitness and phonics" tape. In addition, students make and star in their own rap and music videos in "Studio 40," the school's film production facility. The project is run by the building's technology specialist, who also works with students to produce the yearbook and newspaper.
Despite such offerings, PS 40 is a school where, Roberts-Turner said, she initially encountered "some very angry and aggressive children," and where disruptiveness remains a major problem. We saw a music class headed by a teacher with a well-thought-out lesson plan; to introduce the word "timbre," she used a triangle to imitate a ship's bell, for example. But the lesson proceeded bumpily, because some students were unfocused and disruptive. In another class, we were almost hit by a door flung open by a 6th grader who, thinking the incident was funny, was reluctant to apologize.
More serious was a fight between two six-year-olds during our visit. One lost two teeth after being punched by the other. To make matters worse, the young mother of the hurt child arrived in the office not only to spew vulgar language, but to insist that the offending child be brought out so her son could avenge himself.
We thought the principal's handled the incident in a highly professional manner: she first attended to the injured child (PS 40 houses a city-funded dental clinic, so the school dentist was called in). She tried to calm the mother and contacted the injured boy's grandmother to give her information from the dentist. She also arranged a meeting with the teacher to sort out what had happened.
Nonetheless, the incident clearly pointed to the work that remains to be done in the school. To try to improve matters, PS 40 staffs two guidance counselors, and in fall 2003, Roberts-Turner hired a social worker to counsel dysfunctional families. She also started a "Senior Academy" class for children who have repeated grades two or more times. "A lot of our children are being brought up by their grandparents," said Sandra Sanders, parent coordinator. "They took their grandchildren, because their children were too irresponsible to raise them."
English as a Second Language: Fifty-six children (most are Hispanic, though some are Pakistani) receive ESL support services outside of their regular classes.
Special education: There are two self-contained classes: a 3rd/4th grade bridge and a 5th/6th grade bridge.
After school: Homework help is offered Mondays and Fridays, 2:20 p.m. - 4:20 p.m., and Tuesday through Thursday, 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Test preparation for at-risk children is offered Tuesday-Thursday afternoons until 4:30. A community organization offers sports, drama, and arts activities on weekdays, from 2:20 p.m. - 5:45 p.m.; the group's soccer team competes against other schools. Drama, dance, and board game clubs meet Fridays until 4:30 p.m. A basketball team and cheerleading squad also meet on Fridays. Roberts-Turner hopes to schedule basketball games against other schools. (John E. Thomas, March 2005)
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Queens NY 11433