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MARCH 2009 UPDATE: The Department of Education announced that MS 321, one of the three mini-schools that replaced IS 90 in 2004, will begin to phase out in June 2009, graduating its final class in June 2011.
JANUARY 2006 REVIEW: IS 90, serving more than 1,500 students in a gorgeous new building opened in 1994, was reorganized into three mini-schools in 2004 MS 319, MS 324, and MS 321. The jury is still out on whether that reorganization will improve student achievement.
The building has had its ups and downs. Between 1997 and 2001, eight principals moved through the school. During the last year of that chaotic period, the school posted 211 police incidents. Standardized test scores were at the lowest level 1. Then, in 2001, Janet Heller became principal of IS 90. She divided the school into three small "casas," or housesPatria, Minerva and Maria Teresa, named after each of three sisters from the Dominican Republic who offered their lives for democracy. She also eased out 30 substandard teachers. Order and structure reigned in spotless halls during our 2003 visit and scores of level 2an improvement, but still below grade levelwere the norm.
In 2004, the houses were reorganized into separate schools, each with its own principal. Heller, who had been in charge of the whole building, was named as principal of one of the small schools, MS 324. Less experienced administrators were put at the helm of the other schools, MS 319 and MS 321. During our visit in January 2006, it appeared to us that Heller, the most seasoned of the administrators, had solved a lot of problems that the more junior principals were still struggling with such as how to motivate a staff and how to ensure that parents send their children to school regularly rather than allowing them to take the extended vacations to their home country that are common among immigrants from the Dominican Republic. But the three were working together and they said there were early signs that test scores were improving.
IS 90's last class of 8th-graders was scheduled to graduate in 2006. (Philissa Cramer and Clara Hemphill, January 2006)Read more