going postal

After struggles and Sandy, seniors celebrate applying to college

Senior Kristine Supple hands off a stack of college applications to a postal worker parked at the Franklin K. Lane high school campus. Behind her is Folorunso Fatukasi, a University of Connecticut-bound football star.

It was one thing for college-bound seniors at the Channel View School for Research to lose internet access and have to attend classes in a new location after Hurricane Sandy knocked their homes and school building out of commission.

But it was quite another to lose access to Jennifer Walter, the do-it-all school staff member whose job it is to help them get their college applications across the finish line. Walter’s home was flooded, along with the computers and printers she used to put together the finishing touches for students’ applications.

“She is a guidance counselor, a senior advisor. She’s everything. She’s a friend. She’s like an aunt,” Ivonne Aguiar said on Friday as she prepared to mail applications to a slew of colleges, including her top choice, Vanderbilt University.

Channel View is one of eight city high schools operated by NYC Outward Bound Schools where students send off their college applications with collective pomp and circumstance in a tradition that began last year at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School. A top Department of Education official has held up the ritual as a low-cost strategy for preparing students for college, and Chancellor Dennis Walcott joined students at WHEELS on Friday for his second college application-mailing ceremony as seven other schools, including Channel View, held marches of their own.

Channel View teachers said they adopted the ritual after observing its effect on students at WHEELS. But Sandy challenged the school’s first effort to hold the event. Channel View and its neighbors in the Beach Channel Campus are among the last schools to remain displaced by the storm; Friday’s parade took place on the football field of Franklin K. Lane Campus, Channel View’s temporary home.

And at a time when the students needed help writing essays, filling out online applications, obtaining transcripts and sending SAT scores, Walter, the school’s high school guidance counselor, was dealing with her own personal post-Sandy trauma. Walter usually helps her students work through these basic steps during school, then spends her nights at home writing dozens of recommendation letters for individual students.

“But I lost my computers, my printers, I didn’t have access to the internet for four and a half weeks,” said Walter, who lives on Broad Channel, the community located on a thin strip of land connecting the Rockaway peninsula to the rest of Queens. “It was very difficult for me and I lost a considerable amount of days not being there for them.”

On Friday, 46 days after the storm struck, Walter said the adversity was officially in the past. She marched with 65 Channel View seniors across the football field outside their temporary building and through a throng of screaming underclassmen who waved college pennants. Walter then peeled off as the seniors handed over stacks of college applications to a postal truck parked on the track.

“With every hurdle that there has been we’ve been able to climb up the hill together,” Walter said.

Seven weeks after the storm, it remains unclear when Channel View will return to its original building on the Rockaway Peninsula. A department spokeswoman said students are scheduled to return Jan. 3, but the school’s reopening has been delayed once already, and one teacher said on Friday that officials would meet next week to make a final decision about whether the school can be habitable by then.

In the relocated space, attendance has fallen to 85 percent, down from last year’s 91 percent. Principal Patricia Tubridy said many of  the missing students were still uprooted and living somewhere other than their homes. Others, she said, had enrolled in other schools and she hadn’t been notified yet.

Seniors said they were excited to participate in the collective college-application celebration because it showed their resilience.

“We’re marching today to prove that even though Sandy did push us back a llittle, we’re Rockaway-strong,” said senior Kristine Supple. “We’re going to keep fighting.”

A video from Channel View’s college-applications march is below, following by photographs from all of the marches that NYC Outward Bound schools held on Friday.

Students at NYC Outward Bound schools turned in their college applications on Friday. Clockwise from top left: Channel View School for Research; Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, where Chancellor Dennis Walcott participated; James Baldwin Expeditionary Learning School; Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School; Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, which held a “cybermarch”; Leaders Expeditionary Learning School; Gaynor McCown Expeditionary Learning School; and Validus Prep. (All photos courtesy NYC Outward Bound)

 

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.