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 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:

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, 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, 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:

BMI Foundation:

Disability Resources Monthly:

Grants for the Disabled:

Grants for Individuals:

Guide to Financial Aid:

The Black Collegian Online:

Scholarship Search Engine:

College Board’s Scholarship Search:

Youth in Philanthropy:

Foundation Grants:

Herbert Lehman Scholarship:

Study in the USA:

Social Science Research Council:

International scholarships:

Institute of International Education Online:

College Answer’s Free Scholarship Search:,

Peterson’s Scholarship Search:

FastAID Free Scholarship Search:

Next Student scholarship Search:

Super College:

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 ( 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

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.