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P.S. 134 Henrietta Szold
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Popular principal, art and dance programs
Some kids miss many days of school
PS 134, a tiny school with many children with special needs, has a dynamic principal and a stimulating approach to the arts that expands children's curiosity in academic lessons.
The respected Studio in a School program is in the building full time and the teacher does a terrific job connecting the arts with classroom topics such as the environment and the Bill of Rights. Children take dance, theater and music lessons. The school has art and dance studios, two science labs, an auditorium and a good-size gymnasium.
Daniel Kim, former assistant principal at the high-performing PS 6 on the Upper East Side, has won teachers' trust and improved staff morale at the school since he became principal in 2013. "He respects teachers," said a longtime staff member. In a sign of confidence in his leadership, the Department of Education decided in 2016 to consolidate PS 134 and PS 137, an even smaller school in the same building, with Kim as principal.
Kim, who trained at Teachers College at Columbia University, asks teachers to go deep into topics and put their own spin on them. For example, students in one class examined differences in education in a variety of cultures, such as in Pakistan, in the memoirMalala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. Another class read Rain School, set in Chad, where the community has to rebuild the school every year, and wrote essays comparing the African school and PS 134.
Classes are small and bonds are forged across age levels. Fifth-graders help pre-kindergartners in dance class, and kids help other kids solve conflicts in a peer mediation program.
A ten-minute stroll from the East River, PS 134 sits amid a tic-tac-toe of public housing that includes Baruch Houses, the largest in Manhattan. As the population in public housing has aged, the school enrollment has declined. Almost one-third of the children have special needs, almost one-fifth live in temporary housing, and families move in and out of the area frequently. Some kids miss lots of school and some exhibit challenging behaviors, Kim said.
When PS 134 lost after-school funding for pre-kindergarten in this working class community, only about a dozen signed up for pre-knot even filling one of the two available classrooms.
The building is quirky and problematic in spots with its missing ceiling tiles, loud fans in the cafeteria and echo-y gymnasium. In a creative solution, the gym teacher gives kids directions in a hallway space before gym class begins.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The special education population has doubled since 2006. ICT team-teaching classes incorporate kids with special needs, and small "self-contained" classrooms mix several grade levels.
The Henry Street Settlement Mental Health Center provides counseling and support to families.
ADMISSIONS: District 1 choice.(Lydie Raschka, March 2016)Read more