PHOTO: Hayleigh ColomboA child at play. Photo by ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/admiretime/##admiretime##, via Flickr An Upper West Side mom and education researcher is arguing that her son and his classmates need an active, outdoor recess — even when it's very cold outside. Anne Feighery said she noticed that her second-grade son was coming home grumpy every day from PS 166 this winter. Feighery, who is an education researcher and doctoral fellow at Columbia University's Teachers College, told me she identified the reason for her son's bad mood when she realized that he hadn't been outside to play in days because PS 166 keeps students indoors for recess when the temperature drops below 40 degrees. Feighery said the indoor recess PS 166 offered instead was inadequate to meet children's needs. During a 6-week span when he didn't go outside this winter, her 8-year-old son got hurt during indoor playtime as his fellow students' pent-up energy turned indoor games violent, she said. “We began talking about it with other friends who have children in other schools and a lot of people have this problem—it wasn’t unique to us,” Feighery said.
Nine months after an anonymous teacher-blogger began waging an online campaign against the leadership at his school, PS 154 in the Bronx, the principal that he skewered has decided to resign. As of today, Linda Amill-Irizarry is no longer the principal at PS 154, DOE spokeswoman Ann Forte confirmed for me. Amill-Irizarry, who before becoming PS 154's principal was briefly the superintendent of District 8 in the Bronx, is taking a position in the Leadership Learning Support Organization, one of the outside support networks that schools can partner with. PS 154 has been part of a different network, the Empowerment Schools Organization. Marsha Elliott has been appointed as interim acting principal, Forte told me. Elliott was formerly an assistant principal at PS 50 in the Bronx, and she also led PS 158 while it was being phased out due to poor performance. According to The Chief-Leader, a newspaper produced by the city's labor organizations, Elliott was fined last year by the city's Conflict of Interests Board for encouraging staff members at PS 158 to visit the church in Queens where she and her husband were co-pastors. Forte said there is an open investigation of Amill-Irizarry in the Office of Special Investigations, the DOE's in-house unit that examines allegations of wrongdoing in the city schools. Forte she said she could not characterize the allegations against the former principal but said the investigation would continue. For the last nine months, the teacher-blogger has documented what he (or she — the blogger's gender isn't noted on the blog) says is illicit behavior at PS 154, charging that Amill-Irizarry and an assistant principal, whom he nicknamed "Numb Nuts," failed to report incidents according to required procedures.
A chart produced by the Department of Education that shows the number of children qualifying for gifted programs in each district, compared to last year. Nearly 50 percent more incoming kindergartners scored high enough on two nationally normed assessments to be eligible for a seat in a gifted and talented program, according to data released today by the Department of Education. The percentage of test-takers who qualified also increased, from 18 to 22 percent. The jump in participation shows that the standardized procedures the DOE established last year for admission to gifted programs are gaining traction, DOE spokesman Andrew Jacob told me today. "It reflects that families are more familiar with the way we're running the admissions process," he said. The increased number of students eligible for gifted programs could be seen as a feather in the cap for the DOE, which has said it wants to expand access to gifted programs to children citywide, particularly in communities that have not had robust gifted programs in the past. Jacob told me the department this year ramped up its outreach to prekindergarten programs in districts where too few children took the tests and scored high enough last year to warrant opening programs. "We wanted to find as many children as possible in the city who could meet the standard that we set," he said. In terms of sheer numbers, some of the biggest gains happened in districts that already enroll many children in gifted programs, including the districts comprising Staten Island and most of Manhattan below 96th Street.
Assemblywoman Inez Barron of Brooklyn. (Courtesy of Barron) Among those who will decide whether to scrap, renew, or revise the law granting the mayor control over the city's public schools is an impeccably dressed former principal with an aggressively anti-Bloomberg position. Inez Barron, of Brooklyn, is the wife of Charles Barron, the City Council member who recently called for Joel Klein's resignation and urged that mayoral control be abolished. She also happens to be a member of the state Assembly, the body that, along with the Senate and Governor Paterson, will decide what to do about mayoral control before June 30 (next month!). Her election in November brought her into a group of state lawmakers who have also voiced a slew of concerns about mayoral control. But Barron, who worked for the city schools for many years, including as the principal of PS 81 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, appears to have one of the more radical criticisms. At a panel I moderated last weekend, Barron said she favors letting the current law sunset altogether and writing an entirely new version, rather than simply "tweaking" the current system as some have advocated.
Last month, I wrote a story for the Village Voice about the challenges facing early college schools, schools that partner with local universities to offer students a taste of college while they're still in high school. One major challenge, I reported, is that the schools can't always maintain space on or near the campus of their partner colleges, threatening the collaborations. Last week, developments occurred at two of the schools I mentioned in the article that underscore the relationship between location and identity for early college schools. The Daily News reported that Middle College High School at LaGuardia Community College is likely to stay in its current home on the campus of the college because the Department of Education is moving to purchase the building. The real estate deal has not been finalized, but the department has come to an agreement with the owner, DOE spokesman Will Havemann told me on Friday. Also on Friday, parents at an early college school in a different borough were responding to news about their school's future location. A cadre of parents from Bronx Early College Academy traveled to City Hall Friday afternoon to protest a move planned for their school that would quadruple its distance from its partner college, Lehman College. The parents were protesting both the site, in the building of IS 166, a large middle school that is closing because of poor performance, and the process by which the DOE selected it, according to leader Annabel Wright, who estimated that about 20 parents made the trip to Lower Manhattan.