P.S. 36 Margaret Douglas
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New principal has won the trust of teachers
Academics have a long way to go
PS 36, perched on a rock outcropping just around the corner from Teachers College, has long suffered from low levels of academic achievement. The building could use some sprucing up and classrooms need more supplies. But a dynamic new principal, who arrived in 2012, has taken steps to improve attendance, motivate teachers and hire staff to help with behavior problems. While the school has a long way to go, there are signs it is moving in the right direction.
More than 90 percent of teachers say the principal, Heather Jn Baptist, is an effective manager, compared to barely half of the teachers who said the same of her predecessor. Nearly 90 percent of teachers said order and discipline were maintained in 2012-13, compared to fewer than half the year before, according to the Learning Environment Survey.
I love the principal, 5th-grade teacher Pamela Eccles told us. Her door is always open and she is willing to do whatever she can. Eccles teaches her students poetry and has regular communication with parents.
On our visit, we met friendly office staff and some inspired teachers. A very committed music teacher gives a lot of his personal time to provide great experiences for the kids. The music room is well-equipped. Children learn to sing and play percussion instruments, the recorder and keyboards; a few also learn to play the guitar after school. Each year, there is a theme, such as music of the Caribbean.
A pre-kindergarten teacher helped children explore the topic of water, explaining that children in different parts of the world are hungry and that water is very precious to them. This teacher brought in members of the community to talk to the children about water and conservation. The gym teachers daughter, born in Africa, spoke about her experience carrying water on her head to provide for the entire family. (The class then adopted an African family and helped them to get clean water.) Another visitor to the class was a sanitation worker who discussed recycling.
Allison Mathurin, a warm and nurturing guidance counselor, gets high marks from colleagues.
Unfortunately, the quality of teaching is uneven: We heard one teacher use poor grammar. Classrooms lack resources and there are few books in classroom libraries. The playgrounds are old and run-down. The slide in the pre-k playground has electric tape covering what looks like a hole at the bottom and a piece of wood blocking the entrance so that kids will not use it. Teachers told us budget cuts, caused by declining enrollment at the school, have had a serious impact on their work.
Still, PS 36 has potential, and if the principal can encourage more parents to enroll their children, the school may begin to turn around.
Admissions: Neighborhood school. (Mahalia Watson, May 2014)Read more