Posts tagged "on the ground (updated. a lot.)"
September 6, 2012
Most folks have a first-day-of-school ritual, from sharpening pencils for teachers to taking pictures for parents to donning a fresh outfit for students. For us at GothamSchools, it’s racing across the city to visit as many school communities as we can.
Rachel is joining Chancellor Dennis Walcott for his annual five-borough bus tour, and Geoff will be zipping around by bike to see schools the chancellor didn’t put on his agenda. They will file dispatches throughout the day here. (Remember, the reports are posted in reverse chronological order, so if you want to read from the beginning of the day, start at the end and scroll up.)
But we need your help! In 2011, we had three reporters on the ground, but this year, we’re down to two. That means we will have to cover less ground and visit fewer schools. You can help us make up the loss by sending pictures and stories about the first day of school where you are.
5:25 p.m. And with that, we’re over and out. Homework awaits!
5:13 p.m. Most students and teachers had left Stuyvesant High School by just before 5 p.m. But a few stragglers said they could tell that the new principal, Jie Zhang, was making changes at the school, the city’s most elite.
Zhang was appointed just a month ago, less than a week after Stuyvesant’s longtime principal, Stanley Teitel, announced his retirement. Teitel’s departure came amid an investigation into a cheating scandal at the school and how the administration handled it.
Students said there were signs of the scandal today. In each class, students were required to sign contracts saying that they would not cheat or plagiarize, some said. One student who declined to share his name said some of his teachers were also stricter about how students could take notes: While teachers still allowed students to use iPads and phones, others laid down the law. Zhang said she intended to enforce the city’s policy barring cell phones from school buildings.
“He told us, ‘I found in the past that using electronics was not a good idea,’” the student said of his teacher.
4:43 p.m. Things are slowing down for the day. But it’s worth noting that not every single student in the city was in school today. We just got a press release from Democracy Prep, the network of charter schools in Harlem, announcing that four students are in Charlotte, N.C., for the Democratic National Convention. One of them, Alize-Jazel Smith, sent a Twitter message this morning with a picture of her and her classmates with Sen. Charles Schumer at a breakfast for convention delegates.
2:55 p.m. Students trickling out of Murry Bergtraum High School in Manhattan said big changes since last year were already evident on the first day of classes.
The school is no longer requiring uniforms, as it did last September. Early dismissal on Wednesdays is no more — a good move, said Stefani Sanchez, because “we didn’t really learn anything.” And there is a new principal: Lottie Almonte, a former principal who replaced Andrea Lewis at the helm of the massive and troubled school. Lewis was hired in 2010 as an executive principal with a hefty bonus and a three-year contract, but she left with a year left on the clock.
Almonte was outside the building to wish students well on their way home. When one trio of students told her they had been placed in classes they had already passed, she sent them inside to get their schedules fixed. She declined to speak to reporters about the programming snafu.
But it wasn’t the only one students reported. Sanchez said she had been placed in a class for ninth-graders that she took last year and plans to meet with a guidance counselor on Friday to switch out of it.
Even with the bumpy start, several students in a college preparation program said they thought the school felt more under control than it did last year, when video of a hallway fight went viral. The brawl came a year after Bergtraum students rioted over bathroom privileges.
”Reporters think we’re the worst school ever, but if you go inside we’re really not,” said 10th-grader Lexis Mercado.
Still, the school’s performance has slipped enough that it was one of 123 city schools to land on the state’s new list of schools that could face closure by 2015. Mayor Bloomberg said today that the city would use the state’s list to inform its own decisions about which schools to propose for closure this year.
2:10 p.m. Chancellor Walcott’s final school visit is focusing on extracurricular activities. Staten Island Tech has a robotics team that last spring got attention for building a basketball-throwing robot.
That robot, named the Russian word for “thirteen,” rolled out to greet the chancellor — after Walcott took three tries to sink a free throw that the robot is programmed to make in one. The afternoon ended with a photo opportunity uniting Walcott, the robotics team, and Staten Island elected officials.
Walcott and most of the press coterie are going home (or at least back to their offices). But we have a couple more schools to visit. Stay tuned.
2 p.m. Chancellor Walcott might not be visiting struggling schools today, but we are: Geoff just stopped by Williamsburg Charter High School for dismissal. Citing deep mismanagement and financial improprieties, the city tried to close the school this spring, but a lawsuit kept it open for at least another year. (more…)
September 8, 2011
Every year, the city’s schools chancellor takes a five-borough tour on the first day of school. Today is Dennis Walcott’s first time on the circuit, but it’s our third, and we’ll be chronicling his journey and the first day of school for the city’s 1.1 million students in 1,600 schools.
Rachel, Geoff, and Jessica will be sending dispatches from around the city all day. (Remember, the reports are posted in reverse chronological order, so if you want to read from the beginning of the day, start at the end and scroll up.)
Want to add your own first-day-of-school stories or pictures? Email us.
5:32 p.m. It’s been a long day, and just like some teachers, we’re ready for a nap. (But don’t worry, we’ll post Remainders before we crash.) I’ll conclude with a note from the only school visit I managed today, a jaunt down Brooklyn’s Court Street to the low-slung building that houses two secondary schools.
One of them, the School for International Studies, made the news last week when the Post reported it was looking for a public relations professional to help improve its image and boost enrollment. Having more students would give the school more money and allow it to offer more to its students. But a student I met today cited the school’s small size as its greatest asset.
“I like that it’s small,” said the student, a 10th-grader who was scarfing down a lunch with friends while standing on the school’s front patio. “I want to keep it just the way it is.”
5:01 p.m. It was the beginning of the end for Christopher Columbus High School today, where students returned to class knowing that they would be among the last to ever attend the school.
Columbus is one of 22 schools the city started to close this year. It will phase out one grade at a time and close its doors for the last time when current sophomores graduate in 2014.
“Everybody is very upset. It’s depressing,” said a longtime special education teacher at the school, who said her department lost four teachers because the school does not have a ninth grade this year. “But we’re going to work just as hard, if not harder, to show that were a good school.”
That was the tone teachers were striking over the summer, when they told GothamSchools that they would revamp the curriculum despite knowing that the school’s days might well be numbered.
Two members of the sophomore class, Christopher Rivera and Lisa Budhwa, told Geoff today that they agreed the school should be closed. Rivera said one of his teachers told students they should feel special to be among Columbus’s final students.
“There’s just so many kids who don’t act the way they should,” Rivera said. “They’re always jumping around the hallway like they’re crazy.”
Kayla Allen, a senior, disagreed, arguing that the school should stay open. But she seconded Rivera’s complaints about student behavior.
“It’s not the school that’s doing bad,” Allen said. “It’s the students in the school not doing stuff.”
4:19 p.m. Earlier today, Geoff filed an in-depth report about City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s sharp words about teacher layoffs this morning at P.S./I.S. 187.
Other elected officials also turned out for the first day of school. (more…)