P.S. 212 Lady Deborah Moody
Share this school
Creative efforts at building community and increasing academic support
Crowded cafeteria and high absenteeism
Just off the Belt Parkway in Gravesend, PS 212 is waking up and looking for new opportunities to excel. Rina Horne, who has led the school since the retirement of a longtime principal in June 2015, is exploding with ideas on how to make the school a welcoming and successful community for its diverse, sometimes challenging student population and their families.
When we arrived for our visit, office staffers were giving attentive support to a new 4th-grader just arrived from Hong Kong and welcoming another child returned to school after a few weeks absence. The attendance officer, hired to combat the schools long struggle with high absenteeism, was already tracking down missing students for the day. Amid this hubbub, two smiling kindergartners found the principal and offered their reading logs for review. The principal shifted gears from the adults, spot-checked the little reading logs, congratulated the students by name, and asked them about their books as part of a new books and beyond award system to encourage reading in the lower grades.
Much of the school hums with a sense of new programming and change making its way into a large established institution. For instance, in her first year at the helm, Horne brought in a new assistant principal and a gym teacher while also adding academic intervention specialists in the early grades. In all, she had 17 new hires when she started at the school in August 2015. The students and staff also chose a school mascotthe koala bearthrough a series of community-building nominating activities and then a school-wide vote. They then developed a variety of programs around the mascot: Students can earn koala cash to be spent at the koala corner, a school store. Much of the staff wears sweatshirts with the koala mascot.
The new gym teacher (a first for the school in several years) is integrated into the schools daily life by his presence throughout recess, where he serves as a kind of coach for sports and social skills, encouraging active play. He is also active in the basketball clinican after-school club started in 2015 as part of a popular new clubs program at the school, which include dance, leadership, technology and arts.
The classes in the younger grades are mostly vibrant and engaged; rooms are brightly decorated and organized around centers. For instance, all three of the full-time pre-k classes were studying water on the day of our tour. Each room had vivid water-related displays; in one, a shimmery waterfall of paper strips cascaded at the entrance. In another pre-k class, the students worked at several stations, including a mud station where two girls happily mixed water and sandy soil to explore mud.
In a kindergarten class, one student read aloud a simple cookie recipe as the teachers and classmates, who were gathered on a rug, helped him sound out the words. In another, kindergartners clustered around centers which included a rainbow coloring project, computer time and a game building new words.
Some of the instruction we saw appeared very traditional and workbook-based, but particularly in the lower grades, students were engaged and classrooms were lively places. As 3rd-grade math students completed sections in a workbook, for example, they appeared interested in their tasks and were observed working collaboratively to solve the problems.
In the upper grades, however, some of the classrooms were drab and a number of the students appeared disengaged and restless. A 5th-grade class plowed through a reading and writing workbook designed to prepare them for the writing section of the ELA exam. While some worked with apparent diligence, others daydreamed and flipped back and forth between pages.
Students have at least one special classsuch as drama, dance, technology, science or gymmost days. The Dramarts program at the school is well-established and responsible for regular dramatic productions and vibrant decorations throughout the school. Many students spend part of their recess with the teacher working on the decorations.
The school, busy but not overcrowded, serves a challenging student population in which more than 80 percent qualify for free lunch and a substantial number of students live in transitional housing or nearby housing projects. Almost 20 percent of the students are classified as ENL (English as new language) learners, and many others are children of immigrants for whom English is not the first language. There are at least 18 languages spoken at the school with Spanish, Chinese and Uzbek being the most dominant.
The principal is working on new ways to welcome families into the school and to build a community with diversity. The school has introduced regular workshops for parents on core parts of the curriculum and Family Fun Fridays, where parents are invited into the school and classroom. There are also evening programs.
The school sponsors a popular clubs program in the fall. Free after-school is also provided by the YMCA.
The schools year-round Saturday program provides smaller group academic support in reading and math. In the upper grades, students are given test prep in addition to specific instruction in math and reading. Students who are in the lower third of their classes are strongly encouraged to attend the Saturday sessions. More than 200 students attend regularly.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Each grade has a classroom with integrated co-teaching, where one of the two teachers is certified in special ed. Each grade also has a self-contained class.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. (Elizabeth Daniel, April 2016)Read more