West Prep Academy
Lots of laptops, iPads and digital cameras
A new school often needs time to improve test scores
West Prep Academy, a magnet school housed in a sunny wing of PS 145, has a curriculum designed to make students media-savvy as well as community savvy. Students make their own documentary films and quickly learn to express themselves using digital devices. Classrooms are well-equipped with laptops, SmartBoards, iPads, and digital cameras. The climate of the school is both creative and orderly. Students, called scholars, wear purple and gray uniforms. They were happy and engaged as they worked in small groups the day of our visit. Teachers, all of whom have iPads, are experienced and have good control of their classes.
The gym and cafeteria are shared with PS 145. West Prep students have gym every day and the cafeteria, often an indicator of how well a school is functioning, was peaceful and orderly. The schools sunny atrium is also a community garden.
The school has benefitted from a federal magnet grant to integrate art and technology into the curriculum.Former principal Robert Padilla used the funds to purchase new equipment and to forge strong partnerships with Columbia Teachers College, Parsons School of Design, and other organizations to enrich the students learning experiences.
Students sometimes use the community as their classroom. For example, children made an inventory of food resources in the neighborhood and put together a multi-media presentation called Healthy Harvest which highlighted the importance of eating well.
Parents are trained to work closely with teachers in the classroom in a program called Titan Guardians. West Preps dean has developed a fathers support group to work with students. A summer bridge program for new students and their parents is planned.
[Former assistant principal Carland Washington has replaced Padilla, who left in 2014 to become superintendant of schools in Newburgh, New York. In an article in DNAinfo Washington said the transition has been smooth because students already saw him as one of the school's co-leaders.]
Founded in 2009 in shared space at MS 44, West Prep had a rocky start. In 2011 the school lost its founding principal and moved to its current quarters. The next principal, Padilla, was a charismatic recruiter who assembled an almost entirely new faculty from around the country to implement the schools technology-infused and community-oriented curriculum. They made a fine start in turning the school around. While test scores have a way to go, attendance has improved and the atmosphere is both warm and serious.
An after school program operates five days a week and its offerings are a rich mix of media, sports, arts, traditional curriculum as well as homework help.
Special education: About one quarter of the student body receives special education services.
Admissions: Call the school to arrange a tour. Children in District 3 get preference, although there may be room for out-of-district children. (Marian Cross, February 2012; Lydie Raschka, principal update December 2014)
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Manhattan NY 10025