Right before the pandemic began, I had the chance to visit P.S. 172 in Brooklyn, New York. P.S. 172 is a public elementary school serving 540 students, 72% of whom are Latinx and 22% of whom are English learners. More than a third are students with disabilities and 81% of the student body receives free or reduced-price meals.
It was one of the most peaceful, purposeful and well-functioning schools I’d ever visited–and over my career in education I’ve visited many. Among the things I liked:
- There are no “resource rooms” for students with disabilities because of the school’s full inclusion model. Each class is co-taught and push-in services including OT and speech are provided in the regular classroom setting.
- The school’s master schedule is intentionally designed to allow grade-level teams to meet for 90 minutes one morning each week for team-designed and -led professional learning (students attend specials during this block of time). This is above and beyond the common planning time that teachers enjoy 4-5 times each week.
- The school’s Leadership Team is a group of families (50%) and staff (50%), with members rotating off every two years.
- In the school climate survey, 100% of the teachers reported they trust the principal, 95% of teachers reported that they trust each other, and 97% of families responded that the school works hard to build relationships with them.
- The school significantly outperforms more affluent schools on standard measures of academic achievement.
P.S. 172’s building won’t win any awards: on the day I visited with a colleague in December 2019, the old heating system warmed some rooms to 80+ degrees. The furniture was older and the rooms felt small.
But the state of that building mattered so much less than the important and exciting work happening inside it. This was an incredible school that was truly engaging its staff, students and families–and it has the results to show for it.
I’ve visited other places like P.S. 172 and have been really inspired and energized by the ways that many communities are improving their schools. As a member of the Arlington School Board, I’ll bring a fresh perspective, a creative mindset and examples of what’s working elsewhere to strengthen APS.
In Arlington, we’re doing the hard work of reopening our schools and recovering–but I want us to dream bigger and think about reimagining our schools. I want us to have pride of place and know that we are providing a truly transformative, highly relevant and appropriately challenging curriculum to every one of our students. The world doesn’t look like it did 50 years ago and neither should our schools. I’m calling for:
- A bold instructional vision that builds on research, the competencies students will need in their adult lives, and students’ interests and lived experiences.
- Innovative school spaces that capitalize on community assets and expand opportunities for our students.
- Attention to school climate and students’ mental, emotional and physical needs.
- Supporting our staff with competitive pay and more of a voice in decision making.
- Smart approaches to transportation, capital planning and budgeting, and
- An equity mindset in everything we do.
I’m an APS parent and a community volunteer with deep experience in K-12 education, including time as a classroom teacher and a leader with national education nonprofits. It would be my privilege to serve you as the newest member of Arlington’s School Board. To learn more about me and my campaign, please visit www.maryforschoolboard.org or email me at [email protected].
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