September 17, 2013
Dear P.S. 321 Families,
Welcome to a new school year! We are off to another great start. It is remarkable to see how quickly the children have settled in and how engaged they are in learning. Definitely the highlight of my first week of school has been seeing the incredible work your children are doing under the direction of a truly outstanding teaching staff.
Although you will get details about the curriculum at the conferences that teachers are holding next week, I wanted to write to you about some of the things we value at P.S. 321 and to let you know about some school-wide initiatives and procedures. If you have questions about your child’s experience in school, your first contact should generally be the classroom teacher. She or he will let you know the best ways of communicating. Do remember that teachers generally have limited access to e-mail throughout the day since they are busy teaching. If you have questions that are not related to the classroom or you need to talk to someone else, please contact our Parent Coordinator, Marge Keiser.
Marge is based in Room 123 near the lobby; you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
or 718-499-2412 x 1230. I encourage you to attend our first PTA meeting this Thursday, September 19
, at 6:30pm. You’ll get information about this school year from me and the PTA, and you will also have an opportunity to find out about a wide variety of volunteer options. The PS 321 website (www.ps321.org
) has a tremendous amount of information as well as a school calendar. And, if you haven’t already done so, you should definitely sign up for the “Tuesday Bulletin,” (go to www.ps321.org to do this), an e-mail bulletin that gets sent to you weekly and keeps you well informed about upcoming events.
As many of you know, P.S. 321 is a school that is deeply committed to paying attention to the whole child. We have a rigorous, developmentally appropriate academic program where children learn to think creatively and analytically. We differentiate instruction based on assessment, and we guide children to become active, independent learners. We recognize that children learn in a variety of ways, and we provide them with diverse kinds of experiences in literacy, math, science, social studies, physical education, and the arts. Our teachers work exceptionally hard and collaboratively to develop and implement a wonderful, engaging curriculum. We are proud of our accomplishments and of the fact that we have used the Common Core Standards to enrich our curriculum rather than to narrow it. We want children to be happy here, to see school as a joyful experience.
Several of you who have been hearing the reports of the dramatic drop in state test scores in 2013 have been asking me how P.S. 321 did. As a school, we never want to make too much of the standardized state tests, as we see them as only one of many different measures, and we know that they can be arbitrary and inaccurate at times. That said, I am pleased that in the spring of 2013, our 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders did quite well on the state exams. Our scores dropped compared to 2012, as all schools’ scores did, but we were one of the top 25 schools in New York State in terms of 2013 test scores. Although we are happy that our students did well, we also are concerned about the implications of an overemphasis on standardized testing in the city, state, and country, and we have a Testing Task Force of parents and staff that meets regularly. You’ll hear more about this in the Tuesday bulletin.
In our school mission statement we say, “Our high academic standards go hand in hand with high standards of cooperative, humane, interactions.” Under the umbrella of our “Respect Initiative,” we are working hard to make this statement a reality for all children and adults in the school. Teachers focus on building community in the classroom and setting up structures and routines that will make for a peaceful and productive school year. Last year we instituted new procedures to improve recess, and we encourage parents who are available to volunteer at lunch and/or recess. Our Mighty Milers program for 2nd to 5th graders has been a wonderful addition to recess. Our staff and our Parent Diversity Committee work on developing curriculum and parent events that foster respect for all. Our Green and Healthy Initiative, a joint venture of parents and staff, encourages children and families to learn about ways in which they can have a positive impact on their own health and on the health of the environment.
Just a few important reminders to help us have a joyful and safe school year:
Please make sure your child gets to school on time! Backyard lineup for grades 3-5 and minischool classes is at 8:35. Doors open at 8:35AM for grades 1-2 in the front and at 8:40 for Kindergarten. Please also make sure you pick up your child on time.
For the safety of all of our children, you must have an appointment to go into a classroom (unless you are a parent of a kindergarten student bringing the child to school or picking her up). Although we highly value parent involvement, we need to make sure instruction is not interrupted by parents walking into the room throughout the day. If you have a true emergency, please see a guidance counselor or an administrator. All school visitors must wear passes that they get at the front security desk.
We do not allow toys from home at school. That includes trading cards and electronic toys. And, students may not bring scooters or skateboards into the school. Children may never use cell phones in school, including at lunch time when they are in the yard or out to lunch.
If your child has serious medical issues including severe allergic reactions, please contact our school nurse in Room 123 or 718-369-9083. It is essential that we have 504 medical forms for children who have asthma or require any kind of medication during the school day, even on an occasional basis. Teachers are not permitted to dispense medication. Please let us know if your child has lice or any contagious disease (chicken pox, fifth disease etc.). In addition, in a case where a child breaks an arm or leg and is in a cast, we need to have a 504 form that indicates what modifications are necessary during the period the child is in a cast. For information on these emergency 504s contact Dana Rappaport at email@example.com
You will be getting lots of information home over the next few weeks and throughout the year, and I want to encourage you to look in your child’s RED HOMEWORK FOLDER nightly for announcements from me, the PTA, and your child’s teacher. I hope you will join us for our “Welcome Back Pot Luck Dinner” this Friday September 20, in the back yard from 4:30-7:30.
Our first FAMILY FRIDAY is FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4, FROM 8:40-9:20AM. Save the date! You’ll be getting a letter with more details.
Thank you for being a community that is dedicated to working collaboratively with staff to make this such a wonderful school. I’m looking forward to another great year together!