Tuesday, March 3, 2009

RIRA Monthly Common Council Meeting Wednesday Night 8 PM At Good Shepherd Community Center - Ask Questions of PS/IS 217 Principal

Image of RIRA Common Council Meeting

The Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Common Council will be meeting on Wednesday, March 4, 8PM at the Good Shepherd Community Center (543 Main Street). Prior to the meeting, time is alloted for any resident to speak before the Council and air their views or issues of concern to Roosevelt Islanders.

For those interested in the state of public school education on Roosevelt Island, Mandama Beckman, the Principal of PS/IS 217, is scheduled to be in attendance. The 11/18/06 Main Street WIRE has a profile of the Principal:
...When several teachers went back to school for administrative licenses, Beckman got hers too, and slipped right into the job of assistant principal when PS/IS 217’s was promoted to principal at another school. "So here I was with the license, and the same thing happened again, when Miss Gregory announced this summer she was retiring."

Beckman was "shocked" when Gregory told her she was ready for ascension to the educational throne. "She was a great mentor in the sense that she was very supportive, and here we’re always planning ahead, so she had let me start certain [administrative] things and take initiatives." As second in command, Beckman had begun a Saturday math program and "tweaked" the assemblies, so she was already making principal-like decisions before switching to the driver’s seat.

"At this school, I could see where I could go next," meaning that she understood what the school needed to retain the students through 8th grade, to involve the parents more in the school’s vision, and to encourage greater communication among teachers of different grades so that the students have continuity as they progress through the grades....

Some reader comments on PS/IS 217 include:
What's funny about the school administration wanting the PTA to raise $100,000 for teacher development. Which I feel should happen, but here is my dismay on that. In recent years the school has been given grants and never did anything with them. A couple years ago the school had a grant for over $100,000 and let it slip by and never did anything with that. The school Library needs to be updated and get rid of the older books and get some new ones in. The playground area needs to be redone. It just seems like the school administration needs to take care of the kids as well as the teachers. How come students can't take books out of the library. I would be concerned for my child playing on that playground..
... There is an effort underway here on Roosevelt Island to garner support for a Gifted and Talented program here at PS 217. We are trying to collect signatures of residents here on the island that would be supportive of a G&T program- and bring this data to the attention of Chancellor Joel Klein.

I do not know how much knowledge you have of the current situation at PS 217. Presently, many parents send their children to G&T schools, private schools, or public schools (courtesy of a friend's address) in Manhattan to avoid what is considered by many to be a sub-par educational experience. PS 217 currently buses in students from other over-crowded schools to fill seats that sit empty at our school. PS 217 is not currently a reflection of our island make-up. I am serving on the PTA Executive Board, and have been making an effort to try to increase enrollment by residents of Roosevelt Island. Many parents have cited the absence of a challenging academic environment, and a lack of a G&T program as reasons why they would not send their child to PS 217. I believe that the presence of a G&T program here on the island would make many residents rethink their children's educational options, especially in the wake of an upcoming tram shut-down in 2009. Most schools in Manhattan (including G&T schools) will not pick up residents here on the island. Many have buses that stop near the tram station-and it will be much more difficult for these individuals to get to Manhattan schools with an over-crowded subway as the only other option. I know for me personally, if a G&T program is not instated at PS 217 in the next two years, our family will move off-island, and into a better neighborhood school-zone.
We currently have 100+ signatures and plan to add many more....


Anonymous said...

So that Beckman woman became principal without any real experience? That explains a lot. I think she is a key element in turning PS 217 around and so far there hasn't been any signs that the administration has any interest in that. She's probably just another piece of deadwood within the DOE.

Anonymous said...

A G&T program in the school is not the answer, because there is absolutely no guarantee that any of the children of those who sign the petition would even be accepted. And it is not only children in G&T programs who are going to schools off the Island. Better that the quality of the education offered by the school be raised for ALL the children attending, rather than for the few who might pass a test that in no way adequately gauges anything more than an early aptitude at standardized testing (& which many parents insist on getting their kids tutored for, despite the fact that it not only defeats the purpose & intent of the test, but also ensures once again that some kids are unfairly advantaged). PS217 was once a model of a successful public school, and if 1/2 of the parents who now shun it would instead work to improve it, it could be again. But it won't work as long as those parents who would be involved & active in the school & the PTA are instead sending their kids off Island.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with the above poster I must say that it takes a little more than an active PTA body to turn a school around. It needs the support of the administration and from what I've gathered about PS217 before we decided to go off-island there is not much desire to change anything. It's such a great and big building. The potential is there to do great things with this school.

Anonymous said...

To the person who said "that Beckman woman" comment: maybe you should learn about the school and the principal before you post such a response. She is not another "piece of deadwood from the DOE". She has worked hard and tirelessly to improve the school. If you were to do some actual research, you would see that the school's test scores have improved since she has joined the administration. In addition, instead of complaining, why don't you come to the school and see what you can do to support your actual Roosevelt Island community instead of pretending to be an authority on something you obviously KNOW NOTHING about!!!