P.S. 76 The Bennington School
Band, chorus, theater, dance
Teachers grumble about school leadership
A large peach brick building with tall windows, PS 76 commands a street corner in the working-class neighborhood of Allerton. A few staff members attended the school as children and it serves generations of local residents: nurse's aides, teachers and city workers as well as about 40 children from the area's five homeless shelters.
In this changing neighborhood, PS 76 also welcomes new immigrants, such as a family we met on the day of our visit arriving from Yemen.
One of the perks of this large school is its fine music program including a band, rare in elementary school, and the staging of musical theater productions. Students receive weekly art instruction, and younger children learn dance through a partnership with Alvin Ailey. "We believe wholeheartedly in musical education," said assistant principal Candice Pantano.
The instruction at PS 76 is still mostly traditional with hints of change as teachers try to balance covering the basic skills many children need, with the hands-on projects and discussions that often get children excited about learning.There are two periods of language arts and two periods of math daily, plus an extra period of phonics and word work using the structured Fundations program.Teachers led whole class and small group lessons, and children quietly filled in workbooks and worksheets, or read books on their own as they kept track of their time and the number of pages read in "reading logs."
A few teachers asked children to turn and address a partner, for example during a math lesson, but children seemed hesitant, and after one or two exchanges, fell silent.
A school administrator said children participate in projects on Fridays, designed to invigorate social studies lessons, such as making salt dough maps about New York City or mosaics as part of a Native American study. "It helps the units come to life," said Pantano.
To meet the needs of high-achievers, the administration added a "top" class in each grade in 2016 for children who scored 3 or 4 on state tests. Teachers work with parents of struggling students after school to provide tips they can use to help their children at home.
Bilingual parent coordinator, Gloribel Rivera translates for Spanish speaking parents and enlists the help of English speaking Arabic parents. She is a bridge to the community, helping parents check out books, write a resume or use computers at the local library. "They know we're in it with our hearts," Rivera said.
Principal Louise Sedotto served as assistant principal for three years before taking the reins in 2003. Despite her long tenure, teachers expressed dissatisfaction with the leadership on school surveys, and most said they did not look forward to coming to work. Less than one-third of the teachers said she was an effective manager. An assistant principal said some teachers resist the high standards set by the administration, causing friction.
On the positive side, the school earned high praise on the 2015-2016 Quality Review, earning "well developed," the highest rating, in most categories.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school has three "self-contained" classrooms for students with special needs, plus ICT, team-taught classes that mix general education students and those with special needs with two teachers, one of whom is trained in special education.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. (Lydie Raschka, October 2016)
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Bronx NY 10469