P.S. 132 The Conselyea School
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Diverse school with strong academics and enrichment
Strong leadership, vibrant teaching, excellent arts programs and academic continuity are hallmarks of PS 132. In a rapidly changing neighborhood, the school community embraces children of different races, income levels and academic needs, including those in special education and gifted classes.
Solid wooden doors, neat-as-a-pin classrooms and separate boy and girl lines in the hallway speak to the past, while a purple cafeteria, classroom libraries, bright murals and live Komodo Dragons reflect the school’s progressive bent--and are a draw for the neighborhood’s artsy newcomers. This classic red brick school building hugs a large playground, designed with student input that includes a running track, climbing equipment, basketball hoops and an “art zone.”
Black, white, Latino and Asian parents arrive by bus, on foot and via bike, greeting staff in English or Spanish. A Harvest Festival, a Kite Festival, and band and dance performances bring everyone together. Principal Beth Lubeck said Black history, Hispanic history and talent shows are a few ways the school addresses its ethnic diversity.
The neighborhood includes Polish, Puerto Rican, Dominican, South Asian and North African populations. Rents have skyrocketed since the 1990s as artists, musicians and writers have moved in.
Strong, structured leadership-perhaps a tad off-putting to those parents who’d like more say-may be part of the glue that holds everything together. A concerted effort is made to draw representatives from every group to the parent association. A “Parent University” offers evening classes such as yoga (with childcare) and homework, among other offerings.
Teachers were consistently warm and supportive on the day of our visit. Over the years, staffers have created their own reading program with activities based on books their students enjoy. The school was mentioned in a New York Times article as one of a handful of schools in the city adopting Singapore Math, with its emphasis on mastering each concept before moving on, after dissatisfaction with the Everyday Math program that the city had previously mandated. Students use a self-paced computer program for some lessons.
This school enjoys above average test scores without resorting to a narrow focus on test-prep. Prolific writing samples line the hallways. Samples are neat, with indented paragraphs, accurate punctuation and grammar. Children in gifted classes tend to write longer pieces but otherwise everyone tackles similar material. While classes are racially mixed, there are a disproportionate number of white children in the gifted classes (as is the case in most gifted programs in the city.)
The enterprising music teacher leads two bands and a joyful, focused recorder class. He takes his senior band on the road, performing in local events and parades, even Carnegie Hall. A Ta Da! teaching artist looked equally skilled as she prepared kids for a performance of Peter Pan. A dance teacher demonstrated African dance moves in a makeshift gym. Torn paper collage and watercolor landscapes from art classes decorate the hallways.
Some clubs require auditions or applications, like film, video, robotics and band, while others are open to all. In Cookshop, K-2 students learn to prepare food, while grades 3-5 help maintain a rooftop garden in Greenpoint, growing potatoes, basil and tomatoes. They also tend chickens.
Unfortunately, there is no gymnasium, only a multi-use “performance space” with padded pillars, a stage and folding chairs against one wall. Children go outside for sports in the spring and have some physical activities in the classrooms.
A variety of after school activities are offered two days a week and, for those participating in enrichment classes, or band, up to four days a week.
Special education: The school offers both self-contained classes (for special needs children only) and team-teaching classes (that mix general ed and special ed children in classes with two teachers. The children seemed unusually upbeat and happy in the classes we saw, and the quality of their writing was strong.
Admissions: PS 132 is a neighborhood school, but if there is room, some children from outside the zone are admitted to pre-kindergarten. For grades K-5, all children on the waiting list usually get in. (Lydie Raschka, January 2013)Read more