As the month of May moves merrily along and Memorial Day is upon us, it won’t be long before school is out. This leaves many parents scrambling for placement if they are looking for a good school for their youngster next September. Regardless of the age or grade, finding such a school in New York City is a nightmare.
As part of a recent research project on New York City public schools, I had the opportunity to tour several schools, primarily in District 3. It seems as though the better the neighborhood, the better the school is in terms of financial resources, smaller class sizes and teachers who don’t say, “So, where you be going at?” (Sorry teachers, but I’ve heard it said on more than one occasion. That’s not to say that you are not a good teacher, but you just can’t talk like that with children around–not if you want them to grow up, go to college and get a good job.)
Basically, the best thing going are the District 3 schools. District 3 generally runs below 110th Street from the West Side over to Central Park, give or take a block or two. The rule of thumb is a child in fifth grade or below has to attend his or her zoned school, and we uptown folks are in District 5 (that is Central Harlem, and you know where those boundaries lie). You can, however, generally gain admittance into another school if you go to the school and ask nicely. Beware though, because even if you do ask nicely, you can forget about any school below 96th Street, because overcrowding is at crisis levels.
The magnet schools, defined as schools that receive funding from the state as opposed to from the city, have a unique academic curriculum that focuses on themes. One such school is the Early Childhood Discovery and Design Magnet School, located on West 112th Street, run by Principal Jane Murphy. Here, creativity is encouraged and used as a means of problem-solving and learning. From its Lego Lab to teaching awareness of the child’s mind, body and spirit, the school partners with other educational institutions such as Bank Street, Parsons School for Design and Tufts University to provide a well-rounded education for the tots. The school is kindergarten through second grade, so soon after they get settled in, it’s time to make that shift again.
There are eight magnet schools in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Meanwhile, P.S. 24, the Spuyten Duyvil School, located in Riverdale in the Bronx, is allotted $75,000 each school year from the district’s politico (District 10) to assist in meeting the school’s personal needs. This year, the district found an extra little “pot of gold,” so that the school can get air conditioners. Imagine that.
Debra Cooper, who is running for City Council representing District 3, is a true believer in and supporter of public schools. In a speech about her findings and the problem of overcrowding, she expressed that she was appalled with the lack of initiative shown by the Board of Education in promoting equal education for all of New York City’s children. A big problem that she sees is the warehousing of good, vital school buildings where, instead of promoting their use to ease overcrowding, the goal is to create more charter schools. Charter schools, she said, take away from public schools in more ways than one. I really can’t get into the pros and cons of charter schools because I am admittedly not well-versed. For those caught in the web of what to do and where to go, all hope is not lost. Speak to the school’s parent coordinator, the District 5 family advocate and other parents, and let’s begin to think about forming our own schools (now that’s a novel idea).
Across town, students from academies around the country were honored at the National Academy Foundation’s (NAF) annual benefit at Cipriani Wall Street. The students, members of NAF’s elite list of Distinguished Academies, showed an audience of business executives why they were picked as role models for education reform. Present at the event was NAF founder and Chairman Sanford I. Weill, chairman emeritus of Citigroup Inc. The title of Distinguished Academy is based on NAF’s annual assessment, and the award is given to those establishments that have exhibited exceptional devotion to an educational model that prepares students for success in college and in their careers.
The NAF is an acclaimed network of career-themed academies that open doors for underserved high school students to viable careers. For more than 30 years, NAF has refined a proven model that provides young people access to industry-specific curricula, work-based learning experiences and relationships with business professionals. NAF academies focus on one of five career themes: finance, hospitality and tourism, information technology, engineering, and health sciences. More than 4,600 business professionals volunteer in classrooms, act as mentors, engage NAF students in paid internships and serve on local advisory boards.
During the 2012-13 school year, 62,000 students attended 546 NAF academies across 39 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2012, NAF academies reported that 97 percent of seniors graduated. On the scene was New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who is trying his best to do his best. Hip hip hooray!
A monthly mailer from Dr. Ernest Robertson reminds us that it is never too late or too soon to begin good oral health care–that is, taking care of your teeth. Robertson has been practicing dentistry since he was knee-high, as his father, Dr. Alberto Robertson, was one of Harlem’s finest dentists for a very long time. Robertson began the practice on 125th Street and Seventh Avenue, upstairs next to the Florsheim store; the office is now located at 470 Lenox Ave. and boasts state-of-the-art equipment and excellent service.
The young Robertson received his doctorate of dental surgery from Howard University College of Dentistry. He is a graduate of the Misch Implant Institute, a diplomat in the International Congress of Oral Implantology, a fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry and an associate fellow of the Academy of Implant Dentistry. But can he do a filling or a root canal or pull a tooth? Yes, he can.
Robertson and the friendly and experienced team at the Harlem Center for Aesthetic Dentistry look forward to seeing you. If nothing else, call to get on their mailing list so you can also receive the monthly newsletter, which informs you of facts about your mouth that you never knew.
The organization of the week is generationOn, the brainchild of Silda Wall Spitzer, whose gala raised over $700,000 to support its cause. The objective of generationOn is to empower children and young people to make decisions, take responsibility and become leaders through service to their community. Among the honorees was Chelsea Clinton. In her acceptance speech, she said, “GenerationOn helps to empower young people by providing the tools they need to become compassionate leaders, community activists and change agents, a mission that is crucial to the future of our country.” Think she’ll run for office some day? Among the 350 guests were Deborah Roberts, Al Roker and Andrea and Maurice DuBois.
Happy birthday to Malcolm X, who would have been almost 90 years old had his life not been taken at such an early age. Condolences to the Shabazz family, who also recently lost Malcolm X’s grandson, Malcolm Shabazz, at a tender age.
Condolences also go out to the family of Nick Jones, who recently passed away from prostate cancer. Nick was a kind, charming guy, a good friend to many and a gentleman’s gentleman. His friends, of whom there are many, will miss him dearly.
Until next week … kisses