Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Wishing you joy, peace and love on this most holy day!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thank you!

Thank you for attending the PTA meeting last Monday. We had a wonderful turnout of nearly 200 parents, staff and children!!! A great time was had by all - over 30 presents were raffled off to the children, as well as poinsettias and hams to the adults. A special thank you goes to parent volunteer, Suzette Billy, whose efforts made the entire evening a success.

The PTA wishes you a

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

– We hope you have a healthy and prosperous 2008!

Happy Holidays!!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Security, even when you're not there

No one likes to think about the inevitable, but how prepared are you just in case you pass away and your children are still young. Well MassMutual has an answer for those who thought they could never qualify or afford life insurance.

According to their website: "MassMutual pays the premiums for all policies issued under the LifeBridge Free Life Insurance Program. There is no out-of-pocket cost to any covered insured or his/her children. Each term life insurance policy awarded under the LifeBridge program will have a $50,000 death benefit.

Under the LifeBridge program, individuals will be eligible to apply if they are:

•age 19-42;

•the parent or legal guardian of one or more dependent children under the age of 18;

•a permanent, legal resident of the United States;

•currently employed full time or part time with a total annual family income that is not less than $10,000 nor more than $40,000 annually;

•in good health as determined by MassMutual's underwriting guidelines; and

•the only member of the household who has applied for the LifeBridge program.

If an insured dies during the 10-year term of the policy, the death benefit will be paid into a trust* established by MassMutual for the educational benefit of the children named by the insured. Benefits will be applied solely toward the education of the insured's eligible children. They will be used to help cover school expenses, including books and tuition."

Please check their website for more details and the application form, by clicking here.

Friday, December 07, 2007

you'd better watch out! have you been good or bad???

Well, the PTA believes that all of our PS 161 children have been nice, and we want to get a jumpstart on Santa Claus*. Join us on Monday, December 17th at 6:30 pm for our Holiday Shindig!!! There will be toy giveaways, food and entertainment**

The Fine Print:
* We (The PTA) are not actually affiliated with Santa Claus, the North Pole or any of Santa’s Elves. The use of Santa Claus’ likeness and actions are purely coincidental. And, we don’t really know which list the Big Guy has you on, could be the naughty, could be the nice – only you know if you have been a sweet angel or an annoying little bugaboo.
**On December 17th, at 6:30 PM, please join us for the final PTA meeting before Christmas vacation. There will be a raffle for children – up to 30 toys will be raffled off to children. There will also be a raffle for grownups – turkeys, hams, poinsettias (wow). If all of that wasn’t enough, there will be a catered Christmas dinner, musical acts, the Young Entrepreneurs table and more. DON’T MISS THIS ONCE IN A LIFETIME EVENT (We have been to PTA meetings at other schools, yeah we’re confident that this is the best!)

A Christmas Carol Story Time

Bloomsbury Auctions opens its saleroom to the city's youngest bookworms for a theatrical reading of Charles Dickens' holiday classic, A Christmas Carol - performed by Broadway actor Charles E. Gerber. Free hot chocolate and cookies are served, too. At 6 W 48th Street (between 5th Avenue and Rockefeller Center), 2nd floor. [212.719.1000;

Date: Saturday, December 8, 2007
Time: 11am, 12n, 2pm & 3pm
Cost: Free
SUBWAY: B, D, F, Q to Rockefeller Center; R, W to 49th Street; 6 to 51st Street

Letters About Literature

Children in grades four through 12 are invited to participate in a national reading-writing contest. To enter, kids must write a personal letter to an author (living or dead, from any genre) explaining how that author's work changed their way of thinking about the world or themselves. Cash awards are given at national and state levels for winners in three groups: grades four through six, grades seven and eight, and grades nine through 12. Visit the website for official rules, participation guidelines, and an entry form. Click here Letters must be postmarked by 12/14.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thursday, November 29th: Picture Retake Day

Tomorrow, November 29th will be your final opportunity to purchase a picture package for your child. Irvin Simon Photographers will be here for picture retake. Please note the following procedures and details:

• If your child was absent on the original picture day or did not purchase a package at the time, on Thursday please pick up an order form from one of the photographers – fill it out along with your payment and hand it back to the photographers. Your child will then be able to take a picture.

• If you are unsatisfied with the quality of the pictures you received – return the entire package and its contents to the photographers who will then retake a new photo of your child.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


This Thanksgiving, as you get together with family and friends, please don't lose the meaning of the holiday. Really use the opportunity to reconnect with your loved ones, and try to go through the holiday season imitating the little ones in your life. Have you ever noticed how excited children are this time of year. Never mind the anticipation of Santa Claus, children get excited about the weather, the tradition of seeing family, and basically the holiday for holiday's sake. As grown-ups, forget that your house is not perfect or that you are not the chef your mom was, it doesn't matter - create your own cherished memories.

The following is the work of famed artist John Holyfield. This a representation of family.

Happy Happy Happy!

There was singing. There was saxophone playing. There was even a round of Red Light Green Light. Yes, the November PTA meeting had it all, an evening of fun, good times and cheer. This past Monday - November 19th - the PTA meeting featured Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner with wonderful tasty dishes brought in by our parents and teachers. We even had an extremely talented saxophone player to accompany us during the dinner - our very own, Clarence Newman, an 8th grader in the Crown School.

During the Principal's report, Mrs. Barrett had two surprise guests who spoke to parents: State Senator, Eric Adams and 71st Precinct Community Council President, Mr. Karl Cohen. Both men pledged to work with parents and provided words of inspiration before the holiday season. Mrs. Barrett then presented awards to the November Students of the Month. There was also a raffle - five turkeys and two hams were raffled off to lucky winners (or last minute shoppers???).

The evening was a great success thanks to the support and hard work of all our volunteers and board members; can't wait to see what happens next month during the December meeting!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Veterans Day

From Wikipedia: " Veterans Day is an American holiday honoring military veterans. Both a federal holiday and a state holiday in all states, it is celebrated on the same day as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in other parts of the world, falling on November 11, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.)

Veterans Day is largely intended to thank veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to United States national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served - not only those who died - have sacrificed and done their duty.[1]"

We honor all past,
and future members of the Armed Forces. YOU ARE THE REAL HEROES.

Don't Forget!

Monday, November 12, New York City public schools will be closed in observance of Veterans Day.

On Tuesday, November 13th, there will be early dismissal for students at 12 pm. Parent-Teacher Conferences will be held that day in two shifts: the first from 12:58 pm to 2:58 pm. The evening conference will from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm. Please make arrangements to have your child picked up on time. There will be NO AFTERSCHOOL programs on this day.

On November 14 and 15, Wednesday and Thursday, 5th grades will be taking the Social Studies Test.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Note from the Principal

NYC Public Schools will be closed for children on Tuesday, November 6, 2007 to observe Election Day. Please make the necessary arrangements for your children.

Parent-Teacher Conferences will be held on Tuesday, November 13. This year, the conferences will be on one day, in two parts. The afternoon conference will be from 12:58 pm to 2:58 pm. The evening conference will from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm.

There will be a half day of school on Tuesday, November 13th. Please make arrangements to have your child picked up on time. There will be NO AFTERSCHOOL programs on this day.

Upcoming events:
School holidays for the month of November include: Monday, November 12 for Veterans' Day and Thursday-Friday, November 22 and 23 for Thanksgiving.

5th Grade Students will be taking the Social Studies Test on Wednesday and Thursday -November 14 and 15.

Parents, please help your child to complete the 100th day attendance program. Students must arrive on time and attend school for 100 consecutive days. You can do it. We need your support.


Mrs. Barrett

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

DOE Press Release: Chancellor Klein Proposes Improvements to Gifted and Talented Education

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today proposed improvements to New York City’s gifted and talented education programs. Under the proposal, the Department of Education (DOE) will expand access to gifted programs and create a single, rigorous standard—based on national norms—for “giftedness.” Under the proposed plan, admissions to gifted programs would be based on the results of two comprehensive assessments that public school students would, for the first time, take at their school sites rather than at central testing locations. Students in non-public schools will continue to be tested by DOE staff at specified locations on weekends.

Highlights of the plan are as follows:

City’s Plan To Boost Access to Gifted and Talented Programs

First-Ever Citywide Admission Standard To Bring Greater Equity, Rigor to Self-Contained Programs in Grades K-3

All Students Who Meet Standard Would Be Guaranteed a Seat in a Gifted and Talented Program

Please click here for more details about the Chancellor's plans. There will be public hearings in each of the five boroughs for discussion of the plan. The details for this are:

The DOE will hold public hearings in all five boroughs on its gifted and talented education proposal. The schedule for each hearing is as follows:

6:00 p.m. - Doors open. Speaker signup begins.
6:30 p.m. - Hearing begins with presentation of the proposal.
6:45 p.m. - Public comment. Speakers will be called in the order in which they signed up. Each speaker will have three minutes to make a comment or ask a question. Questions should be short enough to allow for an answer within the three minute allotment. The time limit will be strictly enforced so that as many people as possible have a chance to speak.
8:30 p.m. - Hearing concludes.

Members of the public can also submit comments through November 25 via e-mail (to giftedandtalented@schools.nyc.gov) or via phone (call (212) 374-5219).

The dates and locations of the hearings are below.

When: Monday, November 5
Where: Fashion Industries HS (225 W 24th St.)

Staten Island
When: Tuesday, November 6
Where: PS 58 (77 Marsh Ave.)

When: Thursday, November 8
Where: John Adams HS (101-01 Rockaway Blvd.)

When: Thursday, November 15
Where: Evander Childs HS (800 E. Gun Hill Rd.)

When: Monday, November 19
Where: Brooklyn Technical HS (29 Fort Greene Pl.)

DOE Press Release: Staying Healthy (MRSA)

Health Commissioner, Chancellor, Public Advocate Urge Students and Families to Take Steps to Stay Healthy from 10/26/2007 DOE Press Release

Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum today urged students, families, and educators to wash their hands thoroughly and frequently, since hand-washing can prevent the spread of many infections, including Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a microbe that is resistant to some common antibiotics.
Today’s announcement follows the tragic death of a student at IS 211 in Brooklyn who was infected with MRSA. There is no indication that any other students are at risk.

“Staph is both preventable and treatable,” Dr. Frieden said. “The best way to avoid infections is to wash hands thoroughly and avoid sharing personal items such as towels and razors. We are working with the school system to distribute informational materials so that everyone is aware of the disease and knows how to prevent it.”

“It’s a tragedy that one of our students died of this infection,” Chancellor Klein said. “It reminds us how important it is to wash our hands with soap and water, keep clean, and visit the doctor if we are at all concerned about our health. We are working with principals, school custodians, and parents to reduce the chances of further infection. I urge everyone to be vigilant and to keep healthy.”

“It's a fact of life that kids can forget to wash their hands and scrape their knees on the playground,” Public Advocate Gotbaum said. “But parents and school officials can be super heroes in the fight against the bug simply by reminding their children to wash their hands and cover cuts. Together, New Yorkers can take the basic steps to protect children and help prevent future tragedies.”

The Department of Education (DOE) and the Health Department have distributed materials to schools highlighting strategies that will help educators and students stay healthy and prevent the spread of MRSA. DOE sent custodians a notice this week emphasizing the importance of keeping plenty of soap available to students. DOE also urged custodians to notify school officials and nurses if they have any concerns about sanitation in schools.

MRSA spreads by direct skin-to-skin contact. Less often, it can be spread by contact with items such as towels or sports equipment that have come into contact with infected skin. The microbe, which is common on skin surfaces, normally causes only lesions that will heal without treatment. A Staph infection may look like a pimple or boil on the skin. The lesion may be red, swollen, painful, or have pus. In more serious cases, the infection may cause difficulty breathing, fever and excessive tiredness. If a child develops these symptoms, a parent should contact a doctor. Though MRSA is becoming more common, fatal cases in children are extremely rare.

The DOE and DOHMH released the following recommendations for minimizing the spread of communicable infections such as MRSA:

· Students, educators, and others should wash their hands regularly with soap and water.

· Schools must ensure that sufficient soap and paper towels are available in all bathrooms.

· Schools should clean “flat surfaces” every day. This includes desktops, cafeteria tables, door knobs, toilet seats, sinks, drinking fountains.

· Students should not share towels or other similar personal items during sports or other activities. They should also wipe down shared athletic equipment between users.

If parents have any questions or concerns, they should call their principals, parent coordinators, or 311. Additional information can be found at: http://schools.nyc.gov/Offices/DYD/Health/default.htm.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Black College Expo is in town

The Black College Expo has the following mission: "To expose young people, mainly targeting African American youth, to higher education and to encourage self-pride and self-development among our youth. To reach youth that never thought about college, never thought they could go to college, never were encouraged to go to college and/or not familiar with the college process. To expose and share all opportunities and resources that exists to strengthen oneself, which in turn strengthens our communities. To overall, become a resource base of information for parents and students to gain higher knowledge about the college admission process and the opportunities that exists. Presenting a college fair, focusing on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's), in an entertaining atmosphere...."An Infotainment College Fair"

This Saturday, October 27 from 10 am to 4 pm at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, please attend this important forum for students and parents to meet with representatives of HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), as well as other schools. According to NY Daily News article (9/26/2007), "The expo, which has given away more than $300,000 in scholarships and encouraged 50,000 students to go to college, includes workshops, guest speakers and an opportunity to be accepted into college at the expo." Do not miss this important event! of e Black College Expo.

Admission is $10.00

Thursday, October 25, 2007


The following is a handout that was placed in the students bookbags today:

Update and Reminders

Thank you for attending the PTA meeting last Monday. We had a wonderful turnout of over 100 parents. The presentation by our guest speaker, Ms. Valerie Armstrong-Barrows, Esq. provided priceless information for our parents. Please check the website, www.ps161pta.blogspot.com for the minutes of the meeting as well as the scholarship information that was handed out. Additionally, congratulations to all the recipients of the Summer Reading Olympics certificates – keep up the good work!

We would like to thank you for participating in Picture Day - over 500 students had their pictures taken! I would like to thank PTA Vice President Traci Tucker, and our staff and parent volunteers: Ms. Hillary Baylor, Ms. Leah Cooper, Ms. Eastman, and Ms. Henry who were on hand on October 18th to make sure this day was a success - from coordinating the photographers, to straightening ties and patting down braids - THANK YOU!!

Please note that it will take up to four weeks for the pictures to arrive at school – do not call the main office to ask them for this information . Once the pictures have arrived and are distributed, please make sure to save the information on the envelope – there will be an account number for which you can call the customer service rep assigned to our school. You will be able to contact that rep, for issues about quality, increasing your order etc. If your child was absent on October 18th or if the quality of your picture is extremely unsatisfactory, our Picture Retake Day will on Thursday, November 29th. Please mark your calendars, as this will be your final opportunity to take pictures for this school year.

As an update for what is coming up next, at our last PTA meeting, we discussed that the November meeting would feature a Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner. Parents signed a volunteer sheet indicating which dish they would bring to share with their peers. If you are interested in participating in this, please drop a message in the PTA mailbox or go to the following link on the website, http://ps161pta.blogspot.com/2007/10/thanksgiving-potluck-dinner-sign-up.html and sign up in the comment section. We need everyone to participate in this in order to succeed, so if you don’t cook, then bring some cups or napkins!

Scholarship Information

The following is the scholarship information provided to us by our guest speaker, Ms. Valerie Armstrong-Barrows during the October PTA meeting.

Valerie Armstrong Barrows, Esq.
Citywide Council of High Schools
Brooklyn Representative
718-752-7478 cchs office


The following websites are resources for information on grants, scholarships and various funding opportunities. This list has been developed based upon workshops I have attended and information derived from individuals in the education arena. I hope that it is helpful to you in starting your search for college funding and for assistance needed by your child(ren).

New York Foundation for the Arts: www.nyfa.org/level1.asp?ld=1

BMI Foundation: www.bmioundation.org

Disability Resources Monthly: www.disabilityinfo.gov

Grants for the Disabled: www.lib.msu.edu/harris23/grants/3disable.htm

Grants for Individuals: www.lib.msu.edu/harris23/grants/3subject.htm

Guide to Financial Aid: www.finald.org

The Black Collegian Online: www.black-collegian.com/news/

Scholarship Search Engine: www.fastweb.com

College Board’s Scholarship Search: apps.collegeboard.com/cbsearch_ss/welcome.jsp

Youth in Philanthropy: youth.foundation center.org/youth_scholarships.html

Foundation Grants: gtionline.foundation center.org

Herbert Lehman Scholarship: naacpldf.org/content.aspx?article=32

Study in the USA: www.studyusa.com

Social Science Research Council: www.ssrc.org

International scholarships: www.internationalscholarships.com

Institute of International Education Online: www.lie.org

College Answer’s Free Scholarship Search: www.cashe.com, www.wiredscholar.com/paying/content/pay_scholarship_search.html

Peterson’s Scholarship Search: www.petersons.com/finaid/

FastAID Free Scholarship Search: www.fastaid.com

Next Student scholarship Search: www.nextstudent.com/scholarship_search/faq.asp

Super College: www.supercollege.com

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

PTA Meeting Minutes - October 15, 2007

The minutes from the October 15, 2007 PTA meeting are available thanks to Ian James (Recording Secretary).

The Executive Members present:

Tricia Mecklembourg, President
Traci Tucker, Vice President
Ian James, Recording Secretary
Jeneba Bangura, PAC – Representative
Kenneth Llewellyn, Corresponding Secretary

Mrs. Deborah Barrett, Principal
Teachers & Staff
Gloria Arthur, Parent Coordinator
Ms. Valarie Armstrong-Barrows, Esq. (Invited Guest)
Parents & Guardians

The meeting began at 6:30 PM by Mrs. Barrett who welcomed everyone. Following Mrs. Barrett’s introduction a poem entitled “Smile” was read by staff member Ms. Paul.

President Tricia Mecklembourg thanked the parents and guardians for their attendance. Ms. Mecklembourg introduced the PTA Board as well as the PAC and SLT representatives. Each representative gave brief introductions of themselves and express their continued commitment to work for the betterment of the school. Ms. Mecklembourg told the parents and guardians that the PTA looks forward to working with them, and would like their support in return in order for the PTA to meet its goals and objectives for the academic year. Ms. Mecklembourg outlined the upcoming fund raising events and activities that the PTA is hoping to achieve for the academic year. Among the list of events mentioned were Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner and Turkey Giveaway, a Raffle, a Holiday Show and an Annual Fund Drive. She made the appeal for volunteers for these events for which sign up sheets were distributed. President Mecklembourg also made mentioned the PTA’s website (www.ps161pta.blogspot.com) and appealed to parents and guardians to visit the website and post their any comments and concerns that they may have. Ms. Mecklembourg concluded by introducing the guest speaker Ms. Valerie Armstrong-Barrows, Esq.

Ms. Armstrong-Barrows discussed the new Department of Education Discipline Code and the impact it could have on parents, guardians and students. She informed parents to thoroughly review some of the codes. Ms. Armstrong-Barrows advised parents on ways to address their concerns as it related to the school and their children’s rights. She further stated that parents should be more vigilant with their children school records and should be aware of what information is in their children’s records. Ms. Armstrong-Barrows also discussed scholarship information. She called upon parents to begin the scholarship process for College early. She believes that early preparation would build the student portfolio and make their application stronger. She advised parents to get their children to volunteer and get involved in other co-curricular activities which would be of benefit to them during their scholarship and college application process. Ms. Armstrong-Barrows also provided scholarship and other information to parents and guardians through handouts.

Principal Deborah Barrett in her report to the parents and guardians thanked them for their presence at the meeting. First, she called upon parents to return all lunch forms in order for the school to record a 100% return. Parents were also informed about the importance of returning the lunch forms. Secondly, Ms. Barrett warned parents about the dangers of bringing their children to school before the school is opened in the mornings. She noted that the students who are dropped off to the school so early by their parents or guardians are usually not supervised. She called upon parents to stop the practice immediately. Ms. Barrett said that parents must also pick up their children on time. She spoke of an After-School Program that is available for second grade students who are in need of extra academic assistance. Parents and guardians were also informed of one of the school biggest event in that of the 100 Days of School celebration. Mrs. Barrett urged parents to make sure that their children maintain regular attendance and to always be punctual. Mrs. Barrett spoke about the Principal Reading Club that is available for Kindergarten and First Grade students. She admonished parents to review the DOE Discipline Code and invited parents to read and review their children’s cumulative folder. Mrs. Barrett also made a plea to parents and guardians to constantly check their children’s bags for any foreign object that would not be allowed at school.

Following Mrs. Barret’s report, students who participated in the Summer Reading Awards were presented with certificates of participation. After the presentation of the certificates, parents and guardians were invited to cafeteria for a meet and greet sessions as well as refreshments. The meeting concluded at about 8:05PM. The next meeting is schedule for November 19, 2007 at 6:30PM.

Errors and omissions accepted.

Respectfully submitted,

Ian James
Recording Secretary

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Office to Support Fitness and Health Instruction

DOE Press Release: Chancellor Klein Announces New Office to Support Fitness and Health Instruction

Emphasis on Teaching Students Lifelong Healthy Habits

Date: Last Modified: 10/18/2007 2:16:29 PM
Press ID: N-19, 2007-2008

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced the creation of a new Office of Fitness and Health Education to increase student knowledge and enhance achievement in these two critical subjects. The office, which will be supported by both the Department of Education (DOE) and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), reflects the growing conviction among experts that effective instruction integrates fitness and health. The Office of Fitness and Health Education will work to counter Citywide and national epidemics of obesity, diabetes, teen pregnancy, and HIV/AIDS by focusing resources and instructional time on changing student knowledge, skills, and attitudes, and making the connection between fitness and health.

“Youth fitness and health data make it clear that we need to redouble our efforts to ensure that all students receive appropriate and rigorous instruction in these subjects,” Chancellor Klein said. “We need to offer students healthy alternatives for risky behaviors and we need to get students exercising.”

“Healthy kids learn better,” New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden said. “Improving fitness and nutrition is one of the best investments we can make for our children – and for our city’s future.”

In 2003, as part of the Children First education reforms, sustained support for both fitness and health were revived for the first time since the City’s fiscal crisis of the 1970s. The vital importance of these issues is demonstrated by:

A 2003 Health Department study showing that only 53% of New York City elementary school students are at a healthy weight and that more than 20% are obese.

A 2005 New York City pregnancy rate of 94 per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19. The number of New York City high school students reporting that they had been pregnant or gotten someone pregnant was higher in 2005 than in any year since the Department of Health began reporting these statistics in 1997. Teen pregnancy can have serious consequences for mothers and their infants.

Results of the 2007 joint DOE/DOHMH Youth Risk Behavior Survey that showed a clear need to educate New York City teenagers about birth control options. The report urged parents, health care providers, and other trusted adults to encourage teenagers to delay sexual activity. The report also stressed the need for teens to use condoms and birth control if they become sexually active.

The new office will report to the DOE’s Division of Teaching and Learning and the Office of School Health, a joint program of DOE and DOHMH. It will serve all schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, helping principals to meet health education and fitness instruction requirements and providing curriculum, training, and school-based assistance to ensure that all students receive the high-quality instruction they need.

“Fitness, physical education, and health education are key parts of a coordinated school health program,” Director of the Office of School Health Dr. Roger Platt said. “We need to harness the power of instruction, school-based health services, and public health resources to provide a comprehensive approach to school wellness.”

Under the leadership of Lori Rose Benson, who oversaw the highly successful expansion of physical education as part of the Children First reforms, the Office of Fitness and Health Education will introduce new Health education initiatives. These include HealthSmart, a new health curriculum for middle and high school students. In accordance with New York State and national health education standards, critical topics covered by the curriculum include alcohol, tobacco, and drug use; nutrition; injury and violence; physical activity; and sexual risk behaviors.

To meet state learning standards for sex education, HealthSmart will be supplemented among high school students with Reducing the Risk, a research-based program that focuses on delaying the initiation of sexual intercourse, increasing the use of contraception among teens who do initiate sexual intercourse, and increasing parent-child communication about abstinence and contraception. Students will continue to receive age-appropriate lessons in the state mandated NYCDOE HIV/AIDS Curriculum.

The Office of Fitness and Health Education will also expand on the Department’s use of NYC FITNESSGRAM, an evaluation of a child’s physical fitness that is summarized in a report and sent to parents with targeted suggestions for improvement. Half a million students have been evaluated using NYC FITNESSGRAM since its inception in the 2005-2006 school year.

Additionally, the new office will oversee expansion of the C.H.A.M.P.S. program (Cooperative, Healthy, Active, Motivated, Positive Students), which offers middle-school students organized programs in basketball, tennis, baseball, track and field, crew, cricket, and yoga.

“Our schools must play a role in creating a healthier generation of students,” said Ms. Benson, who was named last year the nation’s outstanding physical education administrator by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. “The Chancellor is holding schools accountable for high performance. As educators we must grab students’ attention, teach them how they can make healthy choices now and throughout their lives, and motivate them to change their habits.”

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner - Sign up

For our November meeting - Monday, November 19th, 6:30 pm - we will be hosting a Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner. We are asking everyone to bring a dish to share with the group. Even if you are not a cook, you can bring in some cookies, pies, cups or come help with the set-up. Additionally, we will also have our annual Turkey Giveaway Raffle. Don't miss this exciting event.

Please go to the comment section of this posting, and add your name and the dish you are bringing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

say cheese!

Thursday, October 18th (that's tomorrow folks!) is Picture Day. Irvin Simon Photographers will be here all day to take pictures of our students. Please bring in your forms (these were handed out in September) along with your payment. Also be sure to select your preferred background - only those students in 5th and 8th grades will not have to select a background as they will be taking their pictures in caps and gowns.

Picture Day is our biggest fundraiser of the year. We need everyone's support in order to have some of the wonderful activities we have planned for this school year. Please come and smile!

A Big Thanks!

We would to thank everyone (over 100 of you) who came out this past Monday, to attend the October PTA meeting. It was quite an informative evening: from a recap of PTA planned activities for the next couple of months, to a lively session with Ms. Valerie Armstrong-Barrows, Esq. an attorney in Brooklyn whose community work has focused on middle school and high school students. Ms. Armstrong-Barrows spoke about the recent changes to DOE's Discipline Code and the importance of being involved in your children's lives. She also provided exceptional scholarship information, which we will provide again at the next PTA meeting. Then there were the awards! Over 40 certificates were presented to the children who participated in the Summer Reading Olympics - Congratulations Winners, keep up the hard work.

At the end of the evening, everyone gathered downstairs in the cafeteria for some wonderful and tasty treats from Culpepper's Restaurant.

Please join us next month at the November PTA meeting where we will be having a Thanksgiving Potluck!

Monday, October 15, 2007


Please join us this evening at 6:30 pm in the auditorium for this important PTA meeting. Updates and reminders will be provided on various issues: school pictures; next month's meeting, volunteers etc. Our special guest, Ms. Valerie Armstrong-Barrows, Esq. will have a special presentation on the changes of the DOE discipline code and how this affects your children.

Refreshments will be served from Culpepper's Restaurant and parking is available in the school yard.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Congratulations Winners!

Today was a Parent Speak Up! workshop sponsored and led by the Nu Chapter of Lambda Kappa Mu Sorority and Concord Family Services. It was an enlightening and informational session on how early and effective communication between parents and their children can help children make wise life choices. Ms. Barrett welcomed the parents to the first Saturday Parent Workshop and extended congratulations to the winners.

At the end of the session, there was a raffle: two (2) $20 visa cards. The winners of the gift cards were Mr. Harry Pierre-Louis and Ms. Florence Thelonge. Two gift bags were also awarded to Ms. Choma Castello and Ms. Indira DeCastro. Thank you parents for attending this important program.

There will be a recap of the information provided at the next PTA meeting on Monday, October 15 at 6:30 pm.

Friday, October 12, 2007

What’s going on!

This weekend - with the beautiful, crisp fall weather - is a great time to enjoy all of what New York City has to offer. Here’s a sampling:

10:00 – 12:00 PM – PS 161: Parent Speak Up! Workshop – The Nu Chapter of the Lambda Kappa Mu Sorority (Mrs. Barrett's very own), is proud to present their annual Parent Workshop at PS 161. Prizes and raffle; refreshments served.

In the afternoon, you might head into Manhattan to visit the Sony Wonder Technology Lab; or head over to Riverside Park for the Riverside Alive!: Kids' Fun Run (212.870.3070); or to Queens for the Pumpkin Patch and Oktoberfest (Sunnyside Gardens Park hosts children's arts & crafts, an Oktoberfest barbeque, an autumn produce greenmarket, face painting, and music; All these events have free admission. For more details, or to check out many, many more events go to the gocityKids website and click on the calendar.


Friday, October 05, 2007

Parents Speak Up!

Nu Chapter of the Lambda Kappa Mu Sorority (Mrs. Barrett's very own), is proud to present their annual Parent Workshop at PS 161. This workshop held in partnership with the PTA, will feature Concord Family Services. Concord will provide parents with the education and skills needed to teach their children valuable principles necessary for delaying adolescent sexual activity until marriage.

Date: Saturday, October 13, 2007
Time: 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
Location: PS 161

Refreshements will be served.

This long weekend

"Brooklyn Museum's Target First Saturdays presents Infinite Island some eighty works made in the last six years that reflect the region's dynamic mix of cultures, its diasporas, and its socio-political realities, all of which are constantly transforming themselves. The forty-five emerging and established artists, who work both in the Caribbean and abroad, represent multiple perspectives as they explore the complexities of Caribbean history and identity. Including painting, sculpture, photography, prints and drawings, video, and installation, the exhibition is grouped around themes that encompass history, memory, politics, myth, religion, and popular culture."

Target First Saturdays is partnership with the Brooklyn Museum which presents free programs of art and entertainment the first Saturday of each month from 5–11 p.m.

In 1492

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.

He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.

A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go.

Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.

Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.

Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.

October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!

"Indians! Indians!" Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.

But "India" the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.

The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice.

Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he'd been told.

He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.

The first American? No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.

Poem taken from www.teachingheart.net/columbus.htm

Whatever your thoughts are about the discovery of America, Monday is the official celebration of Christopher Columbus. PS 161 like most schools across the nation will be closed in honor of this day.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Updates and Reminders

We would like to thank everyone who came out last week for the Open School Night – there was a wonderful turnout, which demonstrated that parents and teachers are committed to starting the school year in full cooperation. We want to remind you of some upcoming events:

Monday, October 1, 6:30 pm - PTA Executive Board Meeting (All are welcome to observe, but only board members can speak)

Monday, October 15, 6:30 pm - PTA Meeting (The agenda will be sent home soon, but please mark your calendars for this important meeting.)
Thursday, October 18 – All Day – Picture Day:

Irvin Simon Photographers will be here again all day for our annual school picture event. Please fill out the attached form and indicate the following: picture package and background. If you have a child in the 5th and 8th grades, do not select a background for them, as they will be taking their pictures in graduation caps and gowns and the background for that will be a pastel color. You MUST PRE-PAY in order to take a picture – methods of payments accepted are cash, check or money order. You can turn in the envelopes up till the 18th when the photographers are here. As per usual, there will be a make-up date for the students who were absent or not happy with the quality of their pictures (note, class pictures cannot be redone). School pictures are one a PTA’s biggest fundraisers, so we need everyone to participate.

Finally, during the Open School Night, a PTA Membership Form was given out. Please fill that out, if you haven’t already done so, and return it to the PTA mailbox in the main office. There will be more forms available at the PTA meeting on the 15th.

Please, stop and smell the roses!

First I was dying to finish high school and start college. And then I was dying to finish college and start working. And then I was dying to marry and have children. And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough so I could return to work. And then I was dying to retire. And now, I am dying…And suddenly realize I forgot to live.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Guide for NYC Public School Families Available this Week

From the NYC Department of Education Media Relations:

Press Release Chancellor Klein Releases 2007-08 Guide for NYC Public School Families

Guide Available In Nine Languages Sent to Schools, Homes This Week

Chancellor Joel I. Klein released the “NYC Family Guide: 2007-2008” today. The guide contains useful information for families about the City’s Children First school reforms, what students are learning, and the kinds of services that are available to the City’s public school students. It also provides information about how families can get involved in their children’s education—and how they can find answers, help, and support. The guide is available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu, as well as English.

The guide contains:

Information on new tools like Progress Reports; Parent, Teacher, and Student Surveys; Quality Reviews; and Periodic Assessments. Information about what students are learning in math, English, science, social studies, world languages, and arts, as well as the programs available to special education students and English Language Learners. Information about the annual tests New York City students take in elementary school through high school. Information about types of schools, programs, and special services available to students—from early childhood education to transfer schools and young adult borough centers—and how families can learn more about enrollment options.
Information on parents’ rights and responsibilities.
Information about how families can get involved at the school level in parent associations and parent-teacher associations, or at the district or citywide level.
Suggested questions for parent-teacher conferences.
Information about school safety, health, and sports.
Directory of contact information so parents can get help or find answers to questions.

“This year, we invite you to renew your commitment to your children’s education,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein wrote to parents in the guide’s introductory letter. “‘Commitment’ doesn’t mean you need to be an expert in what your kids are learning. It means you should be there for them. Support them. Guide them. Ask them to show you what they’re learning in school—and check in with their teachers regularly to find out how they’re doing and where they need extra help.”

“This guide provides families with important information that I hope they will use throughout the year,” Chief Family Engagement Officer Martine Guerrier said. “Working together with families, I’m confident this will be an exciting and productive year.”

Schools received shipments of guides starting yesterday. They will be sending guides home with students this week. The DOE will also send guides to community groups and public officials. The guides are available online at http://schools.nyc.gov/ParentsFamilies/NYCFamilyGuide.htm.

What do you fight for?

It was 50 years ago this date that 9 young people from various parts of Little Rock, Arkansas stepped into the pages of history. Thelma Mothershed, Elizabeth Eckford, Melba Pattillo, Jefferson Thomas, Ernest Green, Minniejean Brown, Carlotta Walls, Terrence Roberts and Gloria Ray, or the Little Rock Nine, as they were called, spotlighted the fact that something as basic as starting the first day of school was not the same for everyone in this country.

Faced with angry mobs, a contentious and defiant governor, the Little Rock Nine, persevered until they were able to attend Central High. With all that those brave souls faced, how are you continuing their legacy? Do you thank them and all those pioneers in the past for your ability to go anywhere you want, anytime you want? When there are obstacles in your path, do you jump over those hurdles or just sit down and watch as others pass around you? Please take the time to reflect the meaning of this day and what legacy you would like to leave behind.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Now let's get to work!

There was a wonderful turn-out yesterday for Open School Night. Parents and teachers had an opportunity to meet and greet each other. The evening started on time, at 6 pm, with a welcome from Mrs. Barrett introducing the teachers - a fresh-faced and eager group of newcomers to complement the outstanding and experienced veterans already at PS 161! Ms. Arthur, our Parent Coordinator, prepared a handout consisting of a code of conduct for students and parents, as well as procedural school information - please read this carefully with your child. There was also a handout from the PTA, a guidebook of general information useful to parents. Additionally, the PTA handout included a PTA Membership Registration form. Please fill this out and have your child return it to school - this is a vital tool in reaching parents to share important and useful information.

Looking ahead, the PTA Executive Board meeting will be held on Monday, October 1, 2007 6:30 pm. All are invited, only board members can speak. The general PTA meeting will be on Monday, October 15, 2007 6:30 pm. This meeting will include a full agenda, so please mark your calendars. Also, Picture Day is coming soon, Thursday, October 18th will be picture day at school. More details to follow.

Now that parents and teachers have met, and expectations have been defined, its time for our students to get to work.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Is there anything worse than being blind? Yes, a man with sight and no vision.

The above quote by Helen Keller is rather timely as we approach our first Open School Night. Tuesday, September 18th at 6 pm, please join the teachers, administration and parent leaders in the auditorium as they welcome you to an exciting new school year. This is an opportunity to meet your child's teachers, other parents, and gain a sense of the goals set forth for the academic year by all parties with a vested interest in your child's future.

We have come up with a slogan or motto if you will for our PTA: PS 161 PTA – Shaping a Generation of Leaders. This literally means that whatever we do impacts our children's lives. So as people who want a generation of leaders, we must have a vision and a plan. We must inspire our children to be the future leaders they are all destined to be!

The agenda for the meeting part of the evening will be very brief. Introductions will be made of the parent leader groups after a general welcome from Principal Barrett and PTA president, Tricia Mecklembourg. Afterwards, everyone will head to the classrooms for a meet and greet of the teachers. See you next Tuesday!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Whether its China, Burundi, or the U.S., it's a rite of passage for all children - BACK TO SCHOOL time. We want to welcome our PS 161 family - returning and new members. We hope that you had a restful summer because we are back and it's going to take a lot of hard work from everyone - students, parents, teachers and administration - to ensure a successful school year.

On behalf of the PTA, we welcome you and hope to see you at the first PTA meeting of the school year on Tuesday, September 18th at 6:30 pm.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

a few good words...

Back-to-school angst and stress is not just proprietary to students and their parents. Teachers face this state of affairs EVERY single year of their career. So we thought we would share a wonderful article on tips from a Master Teacher!

Tips for starting the school year right

Veteran teacher and author Coleen Fitzpatrick has advice for teachers and parents.
By Stacy Teicher Khadaroo | Staff Writer

August 30th, 2007 online edition of the Christian Science Monitor

Coleen Armstrong taught high school for 31 years. In 1999, she traded in her English teaching job for a freelance writing career. Her new book – "The Truth About Teaching: What I Wish the Veterans Had Told Me" – offers advice on classroom creativity, organization, and discipline and tips on how to navigate the politics of education. Here's some of what she had to say about the back-to-school season in a phone interview from her home in Cincinnati, Ohio.

What did back-to-school time feel like for you?

The three-month vacation is a myth. You're spending so much time preparing for the school year and taking additional classes to re-certify yourself; attending workshops; scouting around for fresh ideas; and just sitting, staring at the trees thinking, "What can I do differently this year?"

During the actual last few days that you are free to not get up at 5:30 in the morning, there's a sense of, "Can I really do this again?" And then [there's] that first teachers meeting, the day before the kids arrived, I was always just totally enveloped in this feeling of excitement and enthusiasm.

After a couple of days, [I felt] as though I had been hit with a hammer, because it suddenly hit me just how much work this really was. How I would forget that every summer is still a mystery to me.

How do veteran teachers keep it fresh year after year?

Everything I would learn, I would think, "Is there a way to use this in class?"

The secret to being creative in the classroom is the intertwining: You don't just teach "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne; you teach them about Puritan New England and the morals that were in place and how far we've come in the opposite direction. It's like the whole world is your lesson plan.

What's some advice you give to newer teachers about starting the school year off on a good note?

I had a master teacher once tell me that she'd start the year not with a list of rules, as so many teachers do, but she would just go in and start teaching her subject, which was math, and just assume that everyone would behave properly. And if somebody didn't, she'd take that one person aside. So I tried it. I started the first day getting really excited about what we were going to do that year. The third day I'd hand out a sheet of expectations. My [few] discipline problems just went away.

How can families help kids make the best transition back to school?

Sleep and breakfast. Get those kids to bed by 10 p.m. [during the first week] of the school year. That's going to make a huge impact.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

School Registration Information

Registration will be held at PS 161 for new students zoned for the school beginning on Tuesday, September 4th through September 21st. Parents and guardians you must remember the following information when coming to register:


Verifiable proof of your home address utility bill (gas, electric, or water), a deed to a house or a document from the City Housing Authority, or the Human Resources Administration. Other proofs of address include a medical or insurance card with home address or a statement that verifies your address from an employer, a social service agency, community-based organization or a religious institution. A telephone bill or driver’s license is not acceptable proof of address. A lease by itself is not acceptable. If a parent is subletting an apartment or home, or if more than one family shares a living space, you must present an affidavit from the leaseholder or homeowner and attach any of the above acceptable proofs of address.

Your child’s birth certificate or passport.

Your child’s immunization history.

Your child’s transcript or most recent report card(if applicable).

Your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) (if applicable).

For more information, please contact the school at 718.756.3100

Monday, August 27, 2007

It's the most wonderful time of the year!!!!!

Yes, it's back to school and I for one couldn't be happier. I love the kiddies, but .... Next Tuesday, September 4th, all NYC Public School students will return to school. For those of us at PS 161, this means uniforms and school supplies if you haven't already purchased your child's items. I am attaching an interesting and informative article about back-to-schools do's and don'ts.

10 Tips for Smart Back-to-School Shopping
The best strategy for back-to-school shopping? Get organized, stock up on the basics and look for sales and promotions. Here's how.

By Linda Strean, Managing Editor

Start your back-to-school shopping with a plan. Even if your child's school hasn't supplied you with a list of supplies, you can start with the basics and More on GreatSchools.net

Choosing Your Child's Back-to-School Clothes

Back-to-School Shopping With Your Tween or Teen

Back to School: Avoid Morning Meltdown

take advantage of back-to-school sales. Here's how:

Make a list and get your child involved. Use the recommended or required supplies from your child's school or teacher as a starting point. If you don't have a list yet, you can check with parents at your school who have older kids. They might have good advice about what teachers require in your child's grade.

Or check our list to get started. Sit down with your child and go over your list together. You'll be teaching her how to get organized, a skill that applies to more than buying school supplies.

Separate "wants" from "needs." Most school supplies don't go out of style, and your child will happily use the unsharpened pencils his older sister didn't use. But as any parent with last year's superhero notebook knows, beware the fashion trends in school supplies.

Rather than getting into an argument with your older child about whether a backpack with headphones is essential because "everybody is getting one," try setting a budget for all of the supplies. It will help your child set priorities, learn how to manage money and start saving his allowance for the items your budget won't allow.

A note from the teacher: You'll be doing your child's teacher a favor if you stick to supplies without gimmicks. Pencil sharpeners that light up are distractions in class, says Jane Ann Robertson, Arizona's 2004 Teacher of the Year and a GreatSchools consultant. "Keep supplies to the necessary and useful versus fancy and fun."
Take inventory. Sort through last year's supplies to see what is left over or can be reused. (Having trouble finding last year's stuff? Resolve to set up a place to keep your school supplies together this year.)

Start early so you can look for bargains throughout the summer. The best bargains are often available at back-to-school sales. Keeping your supply list in your car or purse, or on your PDA will help you shop for supplies as you do your other errands.

Buy basics in bulk. You know you'll need paper, pencils, glue sticks and notebooks. Dollar stores, warehouse stores and even eBay are sources for buying these and other basics in bulk. You and a group of other parents might be able to negotiate a group discount from an office supply store.

Then set up a supply shelf or storage container in your home that you can use all year long. You'll be able to avoid late-night shopping trips to buy notebook paper when you run out. And you'll know where to find unused notebooks and pencils when it comes time to shop for back-to-school supplies next year.

If you set up this storage area near the place your child will do homework, you'll be modeling good organizational skills and he'll have what he needs nearby.

Nikki Salvatico, Pennsylvania's 2005 Teacher of the Year and a GreatSchools consultant, advises parents to send to school only what is needed. If you buy 4 dozen pencils, send in 3 at a time. This will help your child manage her supplies and help the teacher who has scant storage space in the classroom.

The Absolute Best Things to Give Your Child
Your grandparents might have brought an apple to the teacher on the first day of school. Jane Ann Robertson, Arizona's 2004 Teacher of the Year, has an alternative, more timely suggestion:

"If you really want to make a good impression on the first day of school, add a packet of stickers or a ream of colored copy paper for your child's new teacher."

Nikki Salvatico, Pennsylvania's 2005 Teacher of the Year, adds that the key to helping your child succeed is not something you can buy at your local office supplies store. It's time — time spent reading stories, rhymes, poems and plays with your children. And it's being a role model for the behavior you want to see in your child.

"Many parents stop reading to their child once their child begins to read," she said. "Children learn through modeling and reading fluency must be modeled. A child must hear the reader's voice in order to understand fluency. Reading should sound like speaking.

"Parents spending time with their children — modeling reading, writing daily — is priceless. When children see a parent reading the newspaper, a magazine, a good book or writing a letter, a paper, a report for work, they then can connect why they are learning the things they are in school," she said.

Get your kids into the recycling habit. Now that environmentally friendly living is a hot topic, it's easier than it used to be to convince trend-savvy kids that reusing an item is cooler than buying a new one. Help them add pizzazz to last year's plain notebook with stickers or photos. Set up a scrap paper bin so that paper with writing on just one side can be reused. Check out garage sales, which can be a source of good-quality used items.

Watch for promotions. Some discount office supply stores offer free shipping on online orders. Local health departments in some areas offer free basic school supplies to parents who bring their children in for immunizations. Hang on to flyers and ads that advertise supplies at a particular price. If the store where you're shopping charges more, ask the sales clerks to match its competitor. Some stores that don't offer price matching will still do it.

Figure out when quality counts. Leaky pens will cost you more in ruined clothes than some more expensive varieties. In the event that a strap or zipper breaks, a backpack with a warranty might be a good investment, even if it costs more.

"When buying crayons, colored pencils, markers and water color paints, I would definitely stick to a name brand," says Robertson. "Name brands seem to last longer."

Not every costly item will last as long as you'd like. Take calculators, for example. Math teachers advise that you not purchase one with more functions than your child will use so that she learns and uses those functions. But as she advances in math, your middle school or high school student will likely need to replace her scientific calculator with a graphing one, and these are costly.

Some schools have graphing calculators that students can check out, like library books. And some parent organizations raise funds to help defray the cost of calculators for needy students. Check with your parent group to find out more about similar programs at your school.

Help your school while you shop. If your school participates in a program like eScrip and Schoolpop, you can shop for supplies from a participating merchant who gives a percentage to your school.

Plan now for next year. Some schools send a back-to-school list home with kids on the last day of school so that parents can shop for the best bargains. If your school doesn't do this, get together with other parents or your parent organization and talk to administrators about how you can help your school put together a list earlier next year.

At some schools, parent organizations negotiate with a supplier and buy supplies for the whole school at a discount. They often add a small extra charge that goes to support the parent group.

Susan Furr, a parent at the University Laboratory School in Baton Rouge, Lousiana, says her school parent group has purchased supplies this way for a number of years and virtually all of the families participate.

Here's how it works: The teachers deliver their lists to the school office, which delivers it to the parent group. The group negotiates a price for each grade with the vendor and adds $5, which goes back to the parent organization. The supplies are delivered directly to individual teachers, so there's no shopping hassle for parents.

"People are always saying, 'Don't you need help?' "I feel guilty. It's really easy," notes Furr.

Article from http://www.greatschools.net/cgi-bin/showarticle/CA/657
June 2007

Monday, August 06, 2007

Attack of the whiny children!

"All my friends have cell phones", "all my friends are getting ipods" - does this sound familiar! Do you ever feel that children nowadays have so much, yet appreciate so little. The following article by Jean Chatzky was in today's NY Daily News - it's very enlightening on how to deal with the "canyougetmethis" (I'll give you a hint - it starts with the letter n and ends with o.)

No: A great lesson for kids
Jean Chatzky
Monday, August 6th 2007, 4:00 AM

Are we raising a generation of spoiled children? As a mother, it's a question I ask myself often and a topic I've debated more than a few times with friends.I've seen teenagers with cell phones so high tech I can't begin to understand them, and cars twice as nice as mine. The new iPhone has become the ultimate status symbol for not just the 20-something crowd, but for tweens and teens as well.

"Parenting has become a competitive sport," said Dr. Gail Saltz, a Manhattan psychiatrist and best-selling author who's one of those friends with whom I've had those debates. "Parents are traveling over each other in an attempt to do what they think is better parenting, but in some instances, it's backfiring," Saltz said.

If your children have everything handed to them at an early age, they may struggle to care for themselves one day. And they won't know the satisfaction of owning something they worked hard to get.

I know we don't set out to spoil our kids. Many of us simply want to give them the things we didn't have growing up, and that's understandable. But problems arise when we take it to the next level. I'm all for kids having cell phones in case of an emergency. I'm against an automatic upgrade every time a new model hits the shelves. Children need to know that their belongings are valuable, not disposable.

Here are some tips for teaching kids these important lessons:

Walk the walk
If you don't have control of your money, you're well on your way to a child who behaves exactly the same way. Children pick up on our bad habits, whether that means too many shopping sprees or a bounced check here and there. "Children look to you, because you're the model, and they'll emulate you, whether that's good or bad. If you're always struggling for the next big thing and outliving your means, they're not going to buy it when you try to teach them to do otherwise," Saltz said.

Making choices
One of the most important lessons when it comes to managing your money is that you can't have everything you want. Stop bailing them out. If they blow their weekly allowance immediately, keep your wallet closed. If you automatically hand over more money, the only thing you'll teach them is to turn to you every time they're short on cash.

Disappoint them
Sounds harsh, I know. But no matter how hard you work to shelter your kids, eventually they're going to hit a bump or two. Teach them at an early age how to cope with a small disappointment here and there, and they'll have an easier time when the bumps turn into hills and mountains later in life. Saying no once in a while might help him out when a job interview doesn't go well, or she doesn't get accepted to the right school. "If [their] life is just on a big puffy cloud, they'll never build that skill, and will really struggle as adults," Saltz said.

As far as conversation topics go, money is right up there with sex. It can be taboo, and a lot of families just don't talk about it. But if your child wants something you aren't ready to pay for, it's fine to say that. Then express your concerns - it costs too much, or you've decided that spending on something else will bring more value to the family. You don't have to burden them with your financial problems to make the point.

Stress family values
You might tell your daughter she can't have the new outfit she wants, but you're happy to pay the same amount for music lessons each month, or tutoring. Understandably, this can seem contradictory to a kid, so use it as a lesson in what's important in your house. Sit them down and explain why you spend money on some things and not others.

Whether the topic is education, clothes, sports or toys, explaining your family's values will help children understand your spending habits and your values. It can also help bail you out when the next-door neighbor gets the newest video game and your child doesn't.

With Arielle McGowen

Friday, August 03, 2007

So much to do so little time!

End of summer blues getting you down? There is a lot to do in New York City, especially in Brooklyn we don't know where to begin. Here is a list of the best of the best:

At the Brooklyn Museum's Target First Saturdays, thousands of visitors enjoy free programs of art and entertainment each month from 5–11 p.m. All evening long, the Museum Café serves a wide selection of sandwiches, salads, and beverages, and a cash bar offers wine and beer. Parking is a flat rate of $4 starting at 5 p.m. All other Saturdays, the Museum closes at 6 p.m.

August 4, 2007
Schedule of FREE Programs
3:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. Performance Public Plaza, Outside Museum The West Indian–American Day Carnival Association kicks things off with steel pan music, stilt walkers, Carnival costumes, and more.

6:00 p.m. Performance Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor Charles Moore Dance Theatre presents traditional Caribbean dance. Free tickets are available at the Visitor Center at 5 p.m.

6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m. Hands-On Art Education Division, 1st Floor Decorate your own fabric inspired by the Museum's African galleries. Free timed tickets are available at the Visitor Center at 5:30 p.m.

6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m. Performance Steinberg Family Sculpture Garden, 1st Floor Listen to the pulsating roots reggae beats of Brooklyn-based reggae band Reggaelution.

Celebrate Brooklyn presents Kassav' / Bonga this Saturday, August 4, 7:30pm at the Prospect Park Bandshell. This 'WaMu Concert Series' is featuring "the Paris-based French Antillian founding fathers of zouk—a driving mix of Caribbean rhythms, Franco-pop, and American funk—storm into Brooklyn en masse, blowing horns, banging drums, and whipping the crowd into a frenzied, hip-shaking mob with music that "sounds like the makings of a glorious carnival." (NY Times) Brooklynite Gaston Jean-Baptiste, aka BONGA, is a master traditional Haitian drummer and a high priest of voodoo."
This concert is free.

Earn a penny while surfing!

Help support the PTA every time you do an Internet search. Search the web with www.goodsearch.com, just as you would through Google, Yahoo or MSN, and money from Yahoo advertisers will go to the PS 161 PTA without you spending a dime.

GoodSearch: You Search...We Give!

GoodSearch: You Search...We Give!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Independence Day

According to Wikipedia "Independence Day (commonly known as "the Fourth of July", or "July the Fourth") is a federal holiday celebrating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from Great Britain. Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, picnics, baseball games, and various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States."

No matter the definition, please enjoy a safe and happy Fourth of July with your family and friends. And please keep the all the men and women in the armed forces in your hearts and prayers.

Summer in the city!

Dear Brooklynites,

I would like to take the opportunity to introduce myself, my name is Prospect Park. For you fellow residents of Crown Heights, I am right in your backyard! Please stop by for a visit, a stroll, bird-wathching, jogging, playing or good ol' fashion frolicking.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It's been a long time....

(if you are completing the rest of that line with "I shouldn't have left you", then you are really old like me!!!).

Today is the last day of school for all New York City public school children!!!! Summer vacation is here. Seriously though, a lot has happened this past month, and here is a short recap:

Saturday, June 16th - First Annual International Festival. Over 200 people attended this fun-filled family day, where we celebrated the various cultures the children learned about during the school year. It was a truly beautiful event and the start of an annual tradition.

Thursday, June 21st - PTA Honor Roll and Thank You Dinner. The auditorium was filled to capacity on a warm evening, as parents, teachers and students came out to celebrate the achievement of all the students who have worked hard all year. Additionally, several groups performed for that evening, from steppers to choirs, the entertainment provided just the right kick-off to wonderful dinner that was awaiting everyone downstairs.

Monday, June 25th - District 17 PTA Year-End Dinner Celebration. Ms. Shannon, the PTA coordinator of District 17 held her annual thank you dinner to parent volunteers at I.S. 390. There were also several awards for our students - particularly the students that were accepted to attend specialized high schools received certificates and trophies!!!

Wednesday, June 27th - Last day of school. Today is the last day of school. Children will be picking their report cards today - they MUST be in full uniform. As another year has come and gone, we watch our "babies" mature before our eyes. As you pick up your children today, remember to thank the teacher who spent so much time with your child this year and was hopefully instrumental in your child's development.


Finally, we would like to thank all of the hardworking and resourceful parent and teacher volunteers who have dedicated so much of themselves, their vision, passion, energy, patience, understanding to enriching our children's lives this year!! THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!! You came and supported the meetings and events all year long. A special THANK YOU to Ms. Suzette Billy - you truly go beyond expectations! Next year as we embrace the new Empowerment model, we will need to continue working together in this spirit of community. Thank you!

These are some highlights of the PTAs accomplishments for the 2006-2007 school year:

1) Initiated and coordinated a discussion of family finances with the invitation of a representative from Carver Bank and Jackson Hewitt at our January PTA meeting. Both guests, Marc Davis from Carver and Raymond Wiggins from Hewitt gave general presentations on the value of saving, budgeting and general tax tips. (This is an ongoing event – next year we will have a monthly event tailored to the needs of our community)

2) Save the Crown School drive: initiated and wrote petitions, email campaign with various entities of the District, the Chancellor and local politicians. Spearheaded emergency session for Dr. Peek-Davis to join us for Q&A; main contact with Assemblymen Karim Camara and Hakeem Jeffries to take on our fight

3) Black History Family Movie Festival featuring films starring or produced/directed by African-Americans (four Saturday viewings): I, Robot; Marvel Ultimate Avengers: Rise of the Black Panther; Akeelah & the Bee; Jump In!; Cheetah Girls 2 (on-going)

4) Crown Gems Book Club: The Pursuit of Happyness, by Chris Gardner and The Lemon Tree, by Andrea Levy (on-going)

5) Illustration and Cartoon workshop by acclaimed artist, Chan Harley (This was the first, but definitely not the last; we are working to reach out to more artists, writers etc. to hold more workshops and seminars)

6) Teacher Appreciation Day – special breakfast for Teachers and Staff, catered by Culpepper’s Restaurant.

7) First Annual International Festival – coordinated along with Ms. Arthur a successful family day while celebrating the various cultures that were studied in school

8) Uniform Exchange Program (on-going)

9) Launch of an active PTA website. Includes: links to education organizations, news groups; Timely School information, updated daily

10) School photos fundraiser (Irvin Simon Studio; $3,200); SchoolPop fundraiser (ongoing); GoodSearch.com fundraiser (ongoing)

ps. There will be posts during the summer.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Thursday, June 7: Chancellor’s Conference Day for staff development IN ALL FIVE BOROUGHS. School staff report to work if required by their collective bargaining agreement. Students IN ALL FIVE BOROUGHS will NOT be in attendance.

Tuesday, June 12: There will be a 12 pm dismissal due to Clerical Shortened Days. Please arrange to pick up your child accordingly.

C'est tres bon!

P.S. 161 is proud to present The First Annual International Bazaar!

When: Saturday, June 16, 2007
Time: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Where: P.S. 161 - backyard, cafeteria and gymnasium

Join us as our students provide an array of entertainment ranging from steel pan, steppers, violinists, dancers, choirs, science demonstrations and more!

There will be hot dogs, refreshments, desserts and more! Tickets are $3.00 per person and must be purchase prior to the event.

Come celebrate a great year and a job well done!