school closure season

Calls for Brooklyn's P.S. 19 to stay open despite abysmal scores

At the first school closure hearing of the year last week, students and parents said their school’s youth was a reason to give it another chance. On Wednesday night, families and staff at Brooklyn’s P.S. 19, the Roberto Clemente school, appealed to decades of existence as a reason the school should stay open.

“This has been a school that has been called Roberto Clemente for many, many many years.” said Barbara Medina, who attended the school in the 1970s and sent her son to it in the 1990s. “The name should carry on.”

P.S. 19, located in Williamsburg, was the lowest-scoring elementary school on the city’s progress reports this year. Families have spurned the school in droves in recent years, causing enrollment to drop to about 350 from more than 1,200 a decade ago.

Yet about 100 people turned out to protest the city’s plan to close the school, which the Panel for Educational Policy is set to vote on next month. They said more could have been done to prevent the school from dropping from a B grade in 2009 to an F this year and to soften the impact of the enrollment drop.

“Every year since 2008 we’ve lost four to six teachers,” said Patricia Tambakis, a 27-year veteran of the school who is its union chapter leader. “We have no math teacher, we have no literacy teacher, we have no music teacher, we have no science teacher. We have no librarian. We have no academic intervention teachers. How are we supposed to pass when they’re setting us up for failure?”

Dorita Gibson, a Department of Education deputy chancellor, said the department had offered principal and teacher trainings and other resources over the last year aimed at boosting the school’s academic performance. But she said the city decided the school should be closed after seeing that those supports had not led to test score gains.

The idea that struggling schools could thrive with more support has been a prominent theme in this year’s school closure debate. But some of the speakers at Wednesday’s hearing suggested that P.S. 19 would do better with less involvement from the city.

“You know what, the school ended up worse than it had before the DOE came in and intervened, okay?” said Elaine Manatu, a member of District 14’s elected parent council. “So instead of pointing to P.S. 19 to talk about what hasn’t worked in P.S. 19, DOE needs to look at themselves, and look at the fact that they have failed this school and they have failed these kids.”

Parents and graduates said they understand that the school has serious shortcomings. But they said closure would do away with its assets, too.

Walkiria Gonzalez said the school’s friendly staff allayed her concerns about her daughter’s safety when she moved to Williamsburg this year.

“There is nothing better for a parent [to be] at peace knowing that your child is safe, okay, and this school has that. I’m not ignored when I walk through that door,” said Walkiria Gonzalez, who moved to Williamsburg this year and enrolled her daughter in P.S. 19’s second grade.

“I have no complaints of the school,” she said. “Instead of you bringing in a new school, why don’t you help what’s happening here? This school needs help, but the teachers are wonderful, I can vouch for that.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.