P.S. 242 The Young Diplomats Magnet Academy
Small class size; embraces challenging children.
Poor attendance; French no longer offered because of budget cuts.
In 2010, PS 242 changed its name to Young Diplomats Magnet Academy and began a three-year process to become certified by the International Baccalaureate (IB) Organization, a nonprofit group that includes more than 3,158 schools in 140 countries. IBs rigorous program encourages international awareness and flexible teaching methods. Some teachers are embracing the new school name, mission statement, and direction, while others are reluctant. The sense of overwhelmingness has lessened now that training is under way, said Principal Denise Gomez.
Theschool received a federal magnet grant in June 2011 toprovide students with a global perspective for the 21st century by focusing on central principles identified by the curriculum board of the International Baccalaureate Organization based in Cardiff, Wales. Some of these principles include: Communication, Open-mindedness, Caring, Risk-taking, Balance and Reflection."
PS 242, formerly known as the Gwendolyn Powell Brown Computer School, shares a building with Future Leaders Institute Charter School. PS 242 is a small school, and most classes have fewer than 20 students. Because of the concentration of Haitian and African immigrants in the area, the school chose French to meet the IB programs requirement that all students study a second language.
A paraprofessional in a special education classroom for 10 years and a teacher of grades 3 and 6, Gomez later trained at the Leadership Academy, the citys training ground for principals. Given her background she is an advocate for children with special needs. The school has a cozy, informal feel with caring adults willing to work with kids with big challenges, some from nearby shelters. Go to class, you little chicken wing, the office secretary affectionately chided a morning straggler. A full-time counselor is available. The Harlem Childrens Zone provides peacemakers (an extra adult) for almost every class and offers a Saturday program from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Although PS 242 loses kids to the charter school upstairs, it also gains families who trickle down when things dont work out there. We embrace everyone here, said Assistant Principal Larisa Vail.
Gomez and Vail have promoted more individual and small-group instruction in recent years. In one room half the class worked on tiny laptops with headsets, and the other half sat on the rug for a lesson on triangles. The kids on laptops plugged into programs according to their needs: reading, vocabulary, math. One 5th-grade teacher led a brisk, focused dialogue on reducing fractions. In a 1st-grade Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) class, two teachers worked with separate math groups, while four children sat at desks with workbooks. The workbook questionsadding quarters, dimes, nickels, and penniesquickly became too difficult, however, and those four began to clamor for help.
Bright kids are encouraged to take the eligibility test for a gifted program, and staff escort kids to interviews and tours for middle school. About five kids went to the Delta honors program in 2010.
Special Education: One special education teacher pulls kids out or works in classrooms alongside teachers. There are four ICT (Integrated Co-Teaching) classes in grades K, 1, 2 and 5, with the goal of adding one on every grade level.
Admissions: Neighborhood-zoned school. (Lydie Raschka, March 2011; updated February 2012)
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Manhattan NY 10027