Happy Holidays!

I’m sure all parents are experiencing similar emotions, but as a first-time Kindergarten parent, it is with a special disbelief that I realize our first term of “big kid school” is over. My son is fully settled in his new classroom, no longer complaining about having to go to school for full days instead of halves, and instead is showing and telling us all that he is learning and experiencing.

We are thrilled to be a part of the PS 150 community, and I’m reminded of how special this community is when I review this term’s Smileboxes. These short slideshows, put together by Wendy Chapman, our dedicated PTA co-president, showcase the best of our school and students, reporting on special events such as field trips, parties, and concerts; achievements of particular groups or the school as a whole; and general goings-on in our children’s classrooms.

In case you have missed them, or simply would like to see them again, here they are, with the most recent one focusing on Thursday’s adorably festive Holiday Sing. Please enjoy, have the happiest of holidays, and we’ll see you in 2014!

 

That time of year

By George Hunka

bellringer1

You thought I meant Christmas, didn’t you? Alas, no — I mean the end of tax year 2013, and a good time to think about that last-minute donation.

Why not a tax-deductible donation to the PS 150 PTA?

PS 150 depends on the financial support of the PTA. Your dollars pay for essential programs like assistant teachers in every classroom; arts residencies such as storytelling and ballroom dance; new academic programs like Singapore Math; community events and celebrations; and classroom supplies. This year we need to raise $225,000 to continue to fund these and similar programs. To those families who have already made donations, thank you for your support.

Our PTA supplements the school’s budget for each individual child an average amount of $1,500, primarily through our Direct Appeal.

Two of our annual events, Taste of Tribeca and the school auction, take place in the spring, but our Direct Appeal campaign extends throughout the year. Every dollar counts and no amount is too small, but a $600 donation to the Direct Appeal allows us to fund our existing projects and pursue new and exciting initiatives.

Spread out over the year, this is less than the price of a single latte at Starbucks per day.

The most convenient way of making your contribution is to visit www.ps150pta.org  and click on the “Donate” button. You can make your donation all at once or spread it out through the year. And all donations are tax deductible as determined by law.

Or you can leave a check made out to “ps150 PTA” in a sealed envelope in the PTA mailbox at the school or mail it to:

PS 150
Attn: PTA
334 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013

Please include your full name and address and the names and grades of your children.

Remember to check with your company to see if your donation is eligible for corporate matching. Tax ID: EX206497. EIN: 13-3652222.

Still doing your holiday shopping online? There are other great and easy ways to support the PTA:

At Amazon.com: Go to www.ps150.net and click on the Amazon.com button in the top right hand corner before making your purchase, and the PTA will receive 2% of the sale.

At MightyNest: MightyNest is a trusted source of healthy and mindful toys, gifts, and housewares. All of their products are toxin-free, screened to be free of known toxins such as BPA, PVC, phthalates, lead and other heavy metals, melamine, chemical flame retardants, parabens and other harsh chemicals. You can get these products and have 15% of your total purchase donated to PS 150. Sign up today at our MightyNest school page here: schools.mightynest.com/schools/54929.

At Goodsearch.com and Goodshop.com: Designate PS 150 as your chosen non-profit on this family of websites to earn money for our school. Use www.goodsearch.com as your search engine and the PTA will receive 1¢ per search. Shop online through www.goodshop.com, book a dinner reservation at www.gooddining.com, or make holiday plans through www.goodtravel.com, and we will receive a percentage of each sale.

Box Tops 4 Education: When box tops on many General Mills products are handed in, the school earns 10¢ for each one collected. For a complete listing of sponsored products, please visit www.boxtops4education.com. You can deposit these boxtops in the Boxtops4Education dropbox in the lobby of the school.

Extra, Extra: Dec. 13, 2013

• Victory for the neighborhood! The city has dropped its proposal to move a Criminal Summons Court to 71 Thomas Street, minutes away from PS 150 and other neighborhood schools. (Broadsheet Daily, Tribeca Trib)

• Children who are 5 as of April 30, 2014 and who meet residency requirements still have time to register for the Downtown Little League, but spaces are filling up quickly.

• Take your children to the movies and raise money for PS 150. Buy tickets online for the New York International Children’s Film Festival, select PS 150 as your school, and our PTA will receive $2 for every advance ticket purchased. Also consider registering for Production Workshops beginning in February and enter code SCH2014 to receive a $50 discount.

• A remInder to members of the Downtown Community Center to use your Team Weeks coupon from Modells on Chambers and Broadway, by Jan. 2, 2014. You will get 15% off your purchase and Manhattan Youth, which runs PS 150’s after school programs, will receive 5% of the sale.

Kindergarten Disconnect?

By George Hunka

KC_onewebsite_091213The Kindergarten Connect program, a new online tool for families across the five boroughs to apply for kindergarten in New York City beginning in September 2014, is beginning to draw fire. Several members of the Citywide and Community Education Councils (CEC) have distributed an open letter to Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio, asking him to delay implementation of the program for at least a year. The text of the letter follows:

Dear Mayor Elect de Blasio,

We write to you to express grave concerns regarding Kindergarten Connect, the Department of Education’s new student enrollment system.  It is our fear that this inadequately tested system will result in chaos, confusion and distress among New York City public school parents, similar to the well-intentioned, but glitch-plagued “health insurance marketplaces.”  We believe this can be avoided by postponing implementation for one or more years.  During this period, the following actions may occur: 1) hold public hearings to ensure that a major public education policy shift is guided by a transparent and inclusive public process; 2) provide parents the opportunity to learn about and offer feedback on the system; 3) revise the policy in response; and 4) pilot the system in zoned school districts. We base these recommendations on the following information:

  • The DOE did not assess the new system in the 29 community school districts with zoned, neighborhood public schools; it was piloted only in 3 districts with unzoned schoolsThus, the problems and complexities of ranking neighborhood schools are completely unknown.
  • The DOE has not coordinated roll-out with schools, thus magnet and zoned, neighborhood schools have tours scheduled past the new enrollment deadline.  As well, school directories were just released today (12/4/13) and do not present 2013 data, although it is available.  This means that parents cannot accurately assess schools and make an informed decision regarding ranking their options.
  • The system’s ranking system may maximize class sizes in some districts and reduces parent options in others. The DOE has stated that they will seat the greatest number of students allowed by contract in schools as necessary, even if that is not currently a school’s practice.
  • The system relies heavily on computer-based enrollment, leaving parents without computer access seeking assistance from 311, local schools or district enrollment offices.  Based on how little the schools know about the system presently, it is unlikely that school staff will be able to assist large numbers of parents in the complex process of researching schools and assisting the parent in ranking their options.
  • Outreach to public day care, Head Start programs and Universal Pre-Kindergarten programs has been completely inadequate.  We have yet to find a UPK or Head Start program that knows about this new process, even though the application period begins in roughly 30 school days.
  • Finally, and most importantly, matching English Language Learners and Special Needs students to schools requires more information and sophistication than is present in the system described by the DOE.  This absence may systematically disadvantage these children, widening inequities.

These are just a handful of the concerns that we have identified.  We urge you to review the attached rubric for analyzing the system, read our list of questions and concerns, the press coverage of the issue and the video taken of a recent Community Education Council (CEC) Six meeting. This system was pushed through by the Bloomberg administration at the eleventh hour, with the contract rubber stamped by the Panel for Educational Policy in September. No public hearings were held, CECs were not consulted and school leaders were not involved.  We do not want to see the first few months of your new administration marred by its disastrous implementation, particularly if a year or more delay would bring parents and the public into the process.

We thank you for your consideration and will make ourselves available to you at any time to discuss in more detail our concerns and our ideas for a system that will increase both access and equity, through community consultation that is both authentic and inclusive.

Sincerely yours,
Tory Frye (CEC6)
Kari Steeves (D6 parent)
Liz Rosenberg and Kemala Karmen of NYCPublic.org

[list of other signatories in formation]

Your observations and comments are welcome.

Shop smart and support PS 150 with MightyNest

By George Hunka

MightyNest_LogoWith the holidays coming up, most of us want to shop smart — to get thoughtful gifts for our friends and loved ones that are also environmentally conscious. Now you can do so easily, and support PS 150 in the process.

MightyNest is a trusted source of healthy and mindful toys, gifts, and housewares. All of their products are toxin-free, screened to be free of known toxins such as BPA, PVC, phthalates, lead and other heavy metals, melamine, chemical flame retardants, parabens and other harsh chemicals. They choose reputable manufacturers to ensure all of their products meet high standards.

Now you can get these products and have 15% of your total purchase donated to PS 150. Sign up today at our MightyNest school page here:

schools.mightynest.com/schools/54929

Check out some of the great holiday gift and entertaining ideas.

Taking a moment to visit MightyNest can make your holidays so much simpler and more meaningful! Not only will you find unique and lasting gifts for those you love — when you shop at MightyNest 15% of your purchase is donated to PS 150. Time’s running out — start your holiday shopping today.

Tomorrow Night: Forum on Common Core with John King

New York State Education Commissioner John King.

New York State Education Commissioner John King.

By George Hunka

Tomorrow night — Wednesday, December 11, 2013 — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is sponsoring a public forum on Common Core standards with State Education Commissioner John King, who will be there to hear your thoughts and take your questions. The forum begins at 6:00pm and will be held at the Spruce Street School, 12 Spruce Street.

“I understand there is controversy surrounding this issue and that opinions about the new curriculum vary widely,” Silver writes; here’s an opportunity to air your thoughts and ask your questions of those responsible for implementing the standards. To read more about the Common Core standards, visit the Web site for the initiative here.

Appy Now?

By George Hunka

children_must_have_ipad_appsIf you’re like those parents a few decades ago who tried to keep their kids from TV — well, like those parents, you won’t be able to keep your kids from your iPhone or other computers either. Whether your children are four or 14, tablet and handheld computers are here to stay — and who knows? In a few years, “textbooks” will be a thing of the past; instead of lugging pounds of books home from school, students will likely be toting along a thin computer on which all of their textbooks and homework will be kept, along with their Facebook accounts and everything else.

As the parent of two girls — one just turned five, the other to turn four next year — I’m in the same boat. But the question arises: What are the best educational (and entertaining!) apps for your kids? Share your suggestions in the comments section to this post, along with your guess as to what age group would be most appropriate for them, and a few notes on the app itself. If we get enough responses, we’ll post a “Top 10 Apps for Kids” to round up the contributions.