STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- New schools, new superintendents, new classroom facilities and new standards will greet students as they take their seats on the first day back at school Wednesday.
Despite one of the most severe budget cutbacks in recent history, local schools have been making the most of scant resources to offer an awe-inspiring return to class.
Staten Island Technical High School, for instance, will be opening a state-of-the-art television studio.
With funds secured over several years by Councilman James Oddo (R-Mid-Island), the $1 million studio -- designed and built by Lawless and Mangione, the School Construction Authority and Jordan Construction -- will embrace modern ideas. Programs produced in the studio can be broadcast to 700 students in the auditorium, across Staten Island through public access channels and across the world through streaming on the website, www.siths.org.
Principal Vincent Maniscalco envisions students teaching math to other students through fun, innovative lessons. And that disembodied voice making morning announcements can now be viewed as a live broadcast, aired on SMART Boards in every classroom. Students will also create documentaries. In fact, they already completed one on the nutrition of school food, taking on roles like scriptwriting, lighting, producing, directing, hosting and film editing.
"The potential of this studio is really up to the imaginations of our students and staff -- it can be incorporated in English, math, social studies and even physical education," said Frank Mazza, a teacher in the engineering department, who developed the idea.
Mazza, the advisor to the school's Young Producers Club, has 13 years of experience developing programs on education and medical issues, which are aired on public access channels. "The studio will also be a community resource, open to politicians and schools across the five boroughs who want to come in and use it," he said.
The borough's landscape of school choices is growing, with two new charter schools opening their doors. The Staten Island Community Charter School, a K-8 that will be housed in Trinity Lutheran School in Stapleton, will infuse the curriculum with music and art as children are taught to become model citizens by learning about social responsibility, academic excellence and community service.
New World Preparatory Charter School, Port Richmond, will be the Island's first charter school for middle school students. Under the management of Victory Schools Inc., the school will focus on immigrant students, with bilingual educators, dual-language instruction and support for families.
The newest public school will be PS 74, an elementary school in Tompkinsville that's opening in PS 16's former annex and will share PS 16's resources. Construction also began on PS 71, a school that will be opening in the former Doctors Hospital in Concord. When it is complete in 2013, it will house the overcrowded PS 48 across the street.
New leadership is aplenty this year, with fresh faces among two superintendents and five school principals. Erminia Claudio, formerly the principal at PS 6, Richmond Valley, was appointed the elementary and middle school superintendent after Margaret Schultz retired. Bonnie Brown, the head of District 75 -- which serves special ed students -- also retired, with Gary Hecht, who was deputy superintendent, taking the helm.
Six schools will also have new heads. In addition to the now-vacant position at PS 6, principals Donna Luisi of PS 18 in West Brighton, Katherine Corso of PS 5 in Huguenot, Robert Corso of PS 39 in Arrochar, Evelyn Mastroianni of PS 52 in Dongan Hills and Emma Della Rocca of Markham Intermediate School in Graniteville have retired, with their successors yet to be named.
The city Department of Education is embarking on a two-year special education initiative, and eight Staten Island schools are among 260 across the city to be part of the pilot.
The plan, which will benefit 10,342 special ed students on Staten Island, involves training school staffs to think outside the box when teaching students in literacy and behavior, while emphasizing long-term goals for each child's life after high school.
The first year of the program will be at the College of Staten Island High School for International Studies; PS 32, Great Kills; PS 35, Sunnyside; PS 48, Concord; PS 53, Bay Terrace; the Marsh Avenue School for Expeditionary Learning, New Springville; PS 65, Tompkinsville, and the Petrides School. It will open up to all schools next year.
Staten Island is also getting three new classes for children with autism: two, at PS 69, New Springville, and PS 4, Arden Heights, will mix special education and general ed kindergartners to teach them about socializing; a third, at Tottenville High School, will prepare students to be independent for life after high school.
At all schools, students will experience new standards for state tests, with longer and more challenging exams that cover additional topics.
Also in the coming months, through the use of about $300 million in federal Race to the Top grants, schools will see a new teacher evaluation system.
Written by Amy Padnani on September 6, 2010
Taken from the Staten Island Advance. © 2010 - All rights reserved.