Newsroom

Today’s Department of Education press release, presented without comment

PHOTO: TPurk/Flickr

Okay, three comments. One: Yes, it does make sense that Susan Sarandon is in this press release.

Two: The schools selected to add new sports teams aren’t exactly ones with a dearth of athletic options in the first place.

Three: The density of clever puns in this press release must explain why the Department of Education did not have time to let reporters know about Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s public meeting with parents in Brooklyn tonight — right?

Without further ado:

CHANCELLOR CARMEN FARIÑA AND ACTRESS SUSAN SARANDON ANNOUNCE ADDITION OF TABLE TENNIS AND BADMINTON VARSITY SPORT TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS ATHLETIC LEAGUE 

New Sports Join cricket, Double Dutch and Rugby, Which Were Added in the Last Five Years

NEW YORK — Chancellor Carmen Fariña, actress Susan Sarandon and school officials are bringing a new spin to New York City’s Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) with the announcement of varsity sport additions of table tennis and badminton. The new sports generated quite a racket among students eager to compete, and schools officials expect the sports to net significant interest and participation in the PSAL league among high school students. Other sports added to the PSAL in the past five years include cricket, Double Dutch and rugby. The PSAL encompasses competitive sports for high school students in public schools.

“We are thrilled to serve students’ interests in table tennis and badminton, which will complement the traditional sports offered in City’s schools, such as basketball and football, and other more recent additions like cricket,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said. “These exciting athletics are a smash hit among students and will expand their skills and opportunities both inside and outside the classroom.”

“We applaud the NYC Department of Education’s decision to add table tennis as a new varsity sport in New York City public schools and are pleased the PSAL is working with outside organizations, like American Youth Table Tennis Organization to bring high quality equipment and sport know-how for the benefit of all participating students,” said actress Susan Sarandon. “Table tennis improves the mind and the body with little physical risk or expense – and you can play for the rest of your life unlike other sports.”

Table tennis in season in New York City public schools began on March 3 and ends June 1. It is played with a minimum of seven student-athletes per team with three designated as singles players, two for doubles and one optional exhibition match for up to two additional players. A match is played best three of five games, and a game is played to 11 points and must be won by a margin of at least two points.

For badminton, the season began on March 3 and ends June 7. It is played with a minimum of seven student-athletes per team with three designated as singles players, two for doubles and one optional exhibition match for up to two additional players. A match is played best two out of three games, and a game is played to 21 points and must be won by a margin of at least two points.

“USA Badminton is very pleased to partner with the New York School System in the establishment of the newly formed badminton program,” said USA Badminton CEO Dan Cloppas. “We believe the students of New York City will enjoy learning the sport of badminton which is one of the most played sports in the world and an activity that can be played for a lifetime. This program could be the catalyst that produces the first United States Olympic champion in the sport. We certainly are proud to be a part of assisting in this endeavor.”

More than 30,000 student athletes participate in the PSAL, with many playing multiple sports.  In addition, more than 200 schools are participating in the PSAL, competing in 28 varsity sports and nine junior varsity sports, represented by more than 2,400 teams.

“The PSAL offers students a variety of sports to participate in to enrich their high school experience,” Deputy Chancellor for Operations Kathleen Grimm said. “We are committed to providing our students with opportunities to excel in the classroom as well as the athletic field.”

Eric Goldstein, chief executive for School Support Services who oversees the PSAL, said, “We are offering athletic programs that appeal to students who may not want to go out for the traditional sports. We found a great deal of interest and are excited about adding these sports to the PSAL.”

Donald Douglas, PSAL executive director, said, “We want students to enjoy a variety of different sports while in high school and these two spark the interest of many of our students. This is bound to be an exciting season.”

The debut season for table tennis includes the following schools:

Boys Division

Bronx Science High School
Lehman Educational Campus
Millennium High School
Cardozo High School
Flushing High School
Townsend Harris High School
Stuyvesant High School
Brooklyn Technical High School
FDR High School Campus
Acorn Community High School
McKee/Staten Island Technical High Schools
Tottenville High School

Girls Division

Bronx Science High School
Lehman High School Campus
Millennium High School
Cardozo High School
Flushing High School
Townsend Harris High School
Stuyvesant High School
Brooklyn Technical High School
FDR High School Campus
James Madison High School
McKee/Staten Island Technical High Schools
Tottenville High School

The debut season for badminton includes the following schools:

Boys Division

Bronx Science
Martin Luther King Jr. High School Campus
Flushing International
Townsend Harris
Stuyvesant High School
Brooklyn Technical High School
FDR High School Campus
Seward Park Educational Campus
John Dewey High School Campus
James Madison High School
Flushing High School

Girls Division

Bronx Science
Martin Luther King Jr. High School Campus
Flushing International
Flushing High School
Townsend Harris High School
Stuyvesant High School
Brooklyn Technical High School
FDR High School Campus
John Dewey High School Campus
Seward Park Educational Campus
Tottenville High School

Newark Enrolls

After changes and challenges, Friday’s deadline to enroll in Newark schools finally arrives

PHOTO: Patrick Wall/Chalkbeat
A student fills out an information sheet at Central High School's booth at the citywide school fair in December.

Newark families have just a few hours left to apply to more than 70 public schools for next fall.

At noon on Friday, the online portal that allows families to apply to most traditional and charter school will close. After that, they will have to visit the district’s enrollment center. Last year, nearly 13,000 applications were submitted.

The stakes — and stress — are greatest for students entering high school. Each year, hundreds of eighth-graders compete for spots at the city’s selective “magnet” high schools, which many students consider their best options.

This year, those eighth-graders have to jump through an extra hoop — a new admissions test the magnets will use as they rank applicants. District students will sit for the test Friday, while students in charter and private schools will take it Saturday.

That’s news to many parents, including Marie Rosario, whose son, Tamir, is an eighth-grader at Park Elementary School in the North Ward.

“I don’t know nothing about it,” she said. District officials have been tight-lipped about what’s on the new test, how it will factor into admissions decisions, or even why introducing it was deemed necessary.

Students can apply to as many as eight schools. Tamir’s top choice was Science Park, one of the most sought-after magnet schools. Last year, just 29 percent of eighth-graders who ranked it first on their applications got seats.

“I’m going to cross my fingers,” Rosario said.

Students will find out in April where they were matched. Last year, 84 percent of families applying to kindergarten got their first choice. Applicants for ninth grade were less fortunate: Only 41 percent of them got their top choice, the result of so many students vying for magnet schools.

This is the sixth year that families have used the online application system, called Newark Enrolls, to pick schools. Newark is one of the few cities in the country to use a single application for most charter and district schools. Still, several charter schools do not participate in the system, nor do the vocational high schools run by Essex County.

Today, surveys show that most families who use the enrollment system like it. However, its rollout was marred by technical glitches and suspicions that it was designed to funnel students into charter schools, which educate about one in three Newark students. Some charter critics hoped the district’s newly empowered school board would abolish the system. Instead, Superintendent Roger León convinced the board to keep it for now, arguing it simplifies the application process for families.

Managing that process has posed challenges for León, who began as schools chief in July.

First, he ousted but did not replace the district’s enrollment chief. Then, he clashed with charter school leaders over changes to Newark Enrolls, leading them to accelerate planning for an alternative system, although that never materialized. Next, the district fell behind schedule in printing an enrollment guidebook for families.

Later, the district announced the new magnet-school admissions test but then had to delay its rollout as León’s team worked to create the test from scratch with help from principals, raising questions from testing experts about its validity. Magnet school leaders, like families, have said they are in the dark about how heavily the new test will be weighted compared to the other criteria, including grades and state test scores, that magnet schools already use to rank applicants.

Meanwhile, León has repeatedly dropped hints about new “academies” opening inside the district’s traditional high schools in the fall to help those schools compete with the magnets. However, the district has yet to hold any formal informational sessions for families about the academies or provide details about them on the district website or in the enrollment guidebook. As a result, any such academies are unlikely to give the traditional schools much of an enrollment boost this year.

District spokeswoman Tracy Munford did not respond to a request Thursday to speak with an official about this year’s enrollment process.

Beyond those hiccups, the enrollment process has mostly gone according to plan. After activating the application website in December, the district held a well-attended school fair where families picked up school pamphlets and chatted with representatives. Individual elementary schools, such as Oliver Street School in the East Ward, have also invited high school principals to come and tell students about their offerings.

American History High School Principal Jason Denard said he made several outings to pitch his magnet school to prospective students. He also invited middle-school groups to tour his school, and ordered glossy school postcards. Now, along with students and families across the city, all he can do is wait.

“I’m excited to see the results of our recruitment efforts,” he said. “Not much else is in my control — but recruitment is.”

reunion

Jubilation, and some confusion, as Denver schools begin their post-strike recovery

PHOTO: Eric Gorski/Chalkbeat
Lupe Lopez-Montoya greets students at Columbian Elementary School on Thursday after Denver's three-day teacher strike.

Lupe Lopez-Montoya got the text message at 6:15 a.m. The strike was over, the colleague who’d been keeping her up to speed on news from her union told her.

And so as district and teachers union officials celebrated their deal at the Denver Public Library, Lopez-Montoya on Thursday resurrected her regular commute to Columbia Elementary School, the northwest Denver school where she’s the longest-serving tenured teacher.

For the past three days, Lopez-Montoya had stayed out of school as Denver Public Schools and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association sparred over how teachers in Denver are paid. She still had unanswered questions about the future. But first, it was time to greet students.

One girl ran across the sidewalk to give a hug. “Ms. Montoya’s back,” she shouted, burying her face in the teacher’s side.

Lopez-Montoya began to welcome students into the building. “Line up and you can go get breakfast,” she told one boy. “I’m happy you’re here today.”

The moment kicked off what was a not-quite-normal day in Denver schools. With a deal coming just an hour before some schools were due to start for the day, teachers and families had little time to adjust their plans. The district also had too little time to reopen early childhood classes that have been closed all week; those will reopen on Friday, officials said.

Building principals got an email around 7 a.m. telling them that the strike was over and that many teachers would be coming back to work. In some buildings, central office staff and substitutes who had been filling in for teachers were already on site when teachers returned to work. And some students who commute long distances didn’t get the word in time to go to schools.

By early afternoon, about 81 percent of teachers in district-run schools had shown up to work, and about 83 percent of students had, according to Denver school district spokesman Will Jones.

In the parking lot outside Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy, a west Denver elementary school, teachers still clad in the red of their cause gathered in the parking lot to walk in together. Asked what the mood was, reading intervention teacher Denise Saiz said, “Relief!” and her colleagues responded with an enthusiastic “Yes!”

“We’re really excited to get back to the kids,” said fifth grade teacher Emily Mimovich.

While strike participation was high at the school — it was founded with support from the state and local union as a teacher-led school — the teachers said they did not believe there would be hard feelings between those who walked and those who didn’t.

“We have such a good relationship,” said Reyes Navarro, who teaches Spanish to kindergarten and first-grade students. “We understand that you have to do whatever is right for you.”

Parents also said they were eager to have their children get back to school.

Sarah Murphy, who has a third-grader and a 4-year-old preschool student, said this morning was a “bit of a scramble, albeit a welcome one.” She had both children signed up for a day camp at the University of Denver and was unsure if she should send them to school or to camp because she wasn’t sure teachers would be back at school. Then she got word that camp was canceled for both children — but Denver Public Schools preschools are still closed.

“We were left trying to figure out what to do with our ECE4 since they were still closed,” she wrote to Chalkbeat. “We know how hard this has been on everyone, but this morning proved that the ECE program was the hardest hit, short notice every step of the way. We very much look forward to tomorrow when both are back in their normal school routines.”

Not everyone returned to school. Some teachers said they needed a day to collect themselves after an emotional experience. Judy Kelley, a visual arts teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Early College, said she and many of her colleagues live too far away from the school to get there on short notice.

But the majority of teachers who went back to work Thursday describe positive experiences returning to their schools. Ryan Marini, a social studies teacher and football coach at South High School, called it the “best day” in 17 years of teaching.

Suzanne Hernandez, a first-grade teacher at Westerly Creek Elementary in Stapleton, said she and other teachers gathered to walk into school together at 7:45 a.m.

Teachers thanked the subs from central office who were in the building. They headed back to their roles in central offices.

Early in the morning, Hernandez sent a message to her students’ parents to let them know teachers would be back in school. The reaction from students as she greeted them was “overwhelming,” she said.

With the help of paraprofessionals who had prepared lessons, Hernandez said teachers were able to jump right back to where they left off last week.

As far as Valentine’s Day, that celebration will be pushed back until Friday afternoon, she said. For now, teachers are having their own celebration, happy to be back in the classroom.

“I think if there’s any sort of effect from the strike, it’s been a positive one,” she said. “It’s been a very unifying experience.”

Allison Hicks, a teacher at Colfax Elementary, said returning teachers were greeted with hugs, music, smiles and tears.

“After finding out an hour ago we were going back to work, I scrambled home to get ready,” she wrote to Chalkbeat. “I am exhausted, but so excited to be back with my students. This day won’t be normal, but knowing I did my part to put my students first is the best feeling to have.”

Kade Orlandini, who teaches at John F. Kennedy High School, said most of the teachers are back in her building, despite the short notice.

“Teachers were ready, and we are jumping right back into instruction,” she wrote. “Attendance seems lower than normal, but students who are here are ready to learn. The atmosphere in the school is very positive all around.”

What was your experience going back to school? What other questions do you have? Take our survey

Chalkbeat’s Ann Schimke, Erica Meltzer, and Yesenia Robles contributed reporting to this article.