Thursday May 28th, Next Jump met with PS 9 at our offices, as we continue to evaluate schools for the Adopt-a-School Program. We were introduced to PS 9 by one of our merchant clients, The Fresh Diet, and we spoke with the principal over the phone first to gauge level of interest, engagement and understanding of what we are trying to do. We then extended an invitation to the school to come to our offices for a face-to-face meeting.
Principal Jackie Bailey and four other members of the school’s administration sat with us to discuss the challenges and needs of PS9.
It was an eye-opening experience to spend time with the school’s representatives and listen to them passionately talk about their school. Ms. Bailey in particular made a comment that stuck with me: “When children are inside the school, I am their mother.” That tells a lot.
As a parent of two, one of which getting close to Pre-K, I know I’d like my child to be in an environment where the Principal regards children as her own. For me, this is the kind of attitude that should be at the base of any school system.
Listening to the teachers describe all the things that they are trying to do to make the school a safe environment for the children, the image painted to us was bright and empowering. But, on the other hand, we found out that out of the 850+ kids in this school, about 200 of them live in shelters. The contradiction is obvious, but purposeful.
Coming from the outside though, I cannot ignore the facts. What I heard was shocking. It didn’t seem as shocking coming from the schools administration and I can only assume that this is what happens when you deal with these situations year after year. You have to make the best of it, and you cannot let the children feel like the victim. Yes, there are hardships, but the school’s purpose is to give these children wings and help them get out of poverty. And, by the way, 97% of the children in the school live in poverty.
Ms. Bailey continued to explain that the children in this school are part of the neighborhood and most of them are not strangers to things such as violence, prostitution, and abuse. There’s a dichotomy between the way the teachers describe these issues and how I would expect someone to talk about them, but I guess this is a part of being a teacher: understand difficulties, find solutions to deal with them, and create an environment where the children can grow.
PS9 already took several steps to improve the life of children, at least while on school grounds:
- Free lunch for everyone
- School sponsored uniforms for all children
- Keeping small classes (20-25 kids per class)
- Taking steps toward building a new playground
Small steps, but very important for these children.
Here at Next Jump we want to take these programs and make them bigger, more impactful. We want to show the children that even though they don’t have a lot now, they can still accomplish a lot in life and reach a higher spiritual ground. I mean, think about showing young children that even though they only have one slice of bread, they can still split it in half and share it with one who has no bread. These are the kind things we believe would help set a strong mental, emotional, and spiritual base for the children and help them throughout their life.
It seems like PS 9 is in sync with these thoughts.
When it comes to what is missing the most, the school suffers from a lack of technology especially when it comes to manipulating and analyzing data. As an example, the test scores are passed via Excel files, and data about student’s is manually entered and compiled. Ideally the school would benefit from an integrated application that allows easy single-point data entry with a backend data analysis package to provide useful data.
As most public schools, PS9 also suffers from a lack of equipment, especially computers. Their library is outdated and only has 6 computers. Some of our ideas for improvement include adding more computers or laptops and a way of providing access to e-books on reading devices.
We were very excited to see the level of interest from the representatives of PS 9. We invite everyone to visit PS9’s website and learn more about the school.
Let me end this post with PS 9’s vision: “The Ryer Avenue Elementary School is committed to nurturing and educating our students in collaboration with our teachers, parents, and community. Students will learn to respect and appreciate one another’s similarities and differences.“