P.S. 23 Carter G. Woodson
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Supportive teachers; early morning sports program
No full-time music or art
PS 23 is a neighborhood school where teachers go above and beyond to support children who arrive with a range of social and academic challenges. “There’s almost nothing you can throw at us we can’t handle,” said Principal Joseph Mattina.
Mattina took the helm in 2016. Formerly assistant principal at PS 23, he is an enthusiastic cheerleader for his school. He came to education from a career in business and has taught middle and high school math. “I know the end product kids need in order to be successful to go to college,” he said.
Test scores are beginning to improve. To boost reading skills among students, teachers lead daily phonics lessons and kids also read and write on topics of interest to them. Math classes run more than an hour long.
The school offers support beyond academics to its many students who live in nearby shelters and public housing, according to the yearly report of goals called the Comprehensive Educational Plan. A trained “comfort dog” helps calm children who may feel anxious or sad. About half a dozen teachers have had crisis intervention training, and there is a social worker and a psychologist on staff. Twenty or so paraprofessionals are assigned to work one-on-one with children who have special needs. “We treat every child like they are our own,” Mattina said.
The two pre-kindergarten classrooms have their own bathrooms and a safe enclosed outdoor play area. An early childhood expert works with teachers to maintain a high-quality program. Classrooms are stocked with blocks to build math awareness, and dress-up corners to help spark stories and writing. There are plenty of books. Kids who don’t speak English begin to pick up the language within about a month Mattina said. “It’s amazing the way 4-year-olds accept each other,” he added.
Teachers overwhelmingly recommend the school to other families, and several staff members send their own children there. Even so, there are many challenges. Lots of children miss at least a month of school. A staff member picks up students from the shelters to make sure they get to school on time, and an early morning sports program provides a fun incentive.
Classes are small, which means more individual attention but less money for special classes like music and art. Arts instruction is therefore uneven, including, in recent years, programs in dance, theater, digital film and visual art for select grades, and a guitar club after school.
There is a new science lab with a hydroponics program. Kids enjoy monthly field trips to all the big city museums. There is a free after school program through the 92nd Street Y.
PS 23 shares a building with Brooklyn Charter School.
Admissions: Neighborhood school. (Lydie Raschka, web reports and interview, July 2019)Read more