P.S. 20 Anna Silver
Lots of music, art and extras; promising new leadership
Will take time for new leaders' vision to take hold
PS 20 has a strong commitment to the arts, sparkling facilities, and dual language programs in both Mandarin-English and Spanish-English. Promising new leadership makes this school one to watch.
Principal Sarah Pinto and Assistant Principal Carrie Orr, who both arrived in 2016, bring a thoughtful approach to curriculum and a can-do spirit to a school community that needs it after a weathering an atmosphere of mistrust between staff and the previous principal. Both Pinto and Orr have experience in top-performing Manhattan schools: Pinto taught special education at PS 11 in Chelsea and Orr taught at PS 41 in Greenwich Village.
The two met with parents the summer before their first semester and made common sense changes to improve communication, by, for example being accessible to families at pick-up and drop-off. Its important that I can talk to a parent as a person and solve a problem, Pinto said. Curriculum nights now end in potluck dinners where staff and families can mingle, and every Friday morning parents are invited into their childs classroom to observe instructional time. All school meetings and communications are translated into Mandarin and Spanish.
Efforts to re-engage staff have also been strong. The previous principal, Carmen Colon, was mistrusted by many staff members, according to school surveys. To help build a collegial atmosphere, Pinto asked teachers what they wanted to learn and based teacher-training on their responses, such as how to integrate technology into classrooms, how to foster independence, and how to address behavior. Catering to a mix of new hires and teachers who have been at the school 20 years, Pinto encouraged staff to visit nearby schools; she hired a full-time science teacher and tried to breathe new life into math, writing and technology programs.
Not every classroom in PS 20 looks or feels the same; some offer students more choices than others, some feel calm while others are boisterous. Still, on our visit, just a month after the new leadership arrived, children seemed engaged, teachers were thoughtful and there were standouts. A kindergarten class giggled and sang Head, shoulders, knees and toes in fluent Mandarin, while a riveted class of 5th-graders listened to a seasoned teacher give careful feedback to a student writing a story about staying safe in baseball. Pre-k rooms were full of rich, hands-on materials like play-doh, blocks, magnifying glasses, plants and LEGOs.
There are full-time gym, art and music teachers; once a week students may partake in morning yoga and 2nd-graders learn martial arts through a partnership with Gentlemen for Judo. Rosies Theater Kids teaches drama to 5th-graders and 4th-graders dance with resident teachers from the National Dance Institute. Students head to MoMA, the American Natural History Museum and Green Meadow Farms. Pinto says that plans for one overnight educational trip (and one fun trip) for the 5th-graders are in the works.
Special education: Hailing from a special education background, Pinto believes that special education practices can benefit the entire school by helping teachers reach students of all levels in innovative ways. All classes are encouraged to offer different options for homework in math, for example. Children assigned to so-called self-contained classes are included with general education peers whenever possible. The school has a part time physical therapist and occupational therapist, and two full-time (and one part-time) speech teachers.
Admissions: District, 1 lottery. Applicants to the dual language program apply through normal DOE process and will be assessed in the summer before school starts to determine language proficiency. (Aimee Sabo, October 2016)
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Manhattan NY 10002