P.S. 6 West Farms
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Respected leader, safe atmosphere
Many children miss at least a month of school
PS 6 is housed in a century-old, castle-like building that seems to float above the streets of West Farms. The school has established a safe and orderly tone and now aims to improve attendance, and boost reading, writing and math. Each day starts with a gathering of staff and students in the cafeteria, where they exchange greetings to start the day off right, and review expectations for learning, according to a yearly set of goals called the Comprehensive Educational Plan (CEP).
Teachers work closely with instructors from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, at Columbia University. In this approach, children choose fun-to-read books on topics they enjoy, and learn how to edit their own writing through several drafts. Reading and writing coaches visit PS 6 more than 20 days a year to help teachers improve their lessons. Parents are invited to “publishing parties” to celebrate children’s finished work.
The school faces challenges: nearly 150 students live in temporary housing, according to school demographics. Attendance has been an on-going concern. Roughly half of all students miss at least a month of school.
The school offers counseling and small group instruction to address academic, social and emotional concerns. One goal in the yearly plan is to help teachers meet the wide range of students’ abilities. Teachers encourage class discussion, and ask children to explain aloud how they solve problems in math, for example.
Enrollment has declined from 750 in 2010 to 532 in 2019, while the numbers of students with special needs has almost doubled. Tiawana Perez, who became principal in 2016, was formerly a special education placement officer, and she has a passion for serving children with special needs, as noted in a letter on the school website. She attended NYC public schools all through high school herself, and has worked her way up from payroll secretary to classroom teacher to instructional coach to principal. While her actions at PS 6 have yet to result in marked improvement in test scores for children with disabilities, teachers overwhelmingly say she is an effective manager.
Admissions: Neighborhood school. (Lydie Raschka, web reports, September 2019)