Thursday, January 31, 2008

In honor of Black History Month, the following is a listing of some upcoming PTA activities:

Showtime Saturdays! A Family Movies Festival - Join us for the first in our four-part series this Saturday, February 2 at 12 pm. The movies are:

Transformers – Starring Shia LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson, & Anthony Anderson
Ultimate Avengers 2 – Rise of the Panther (Marvel Comics)

Black History Celebration – The PTA meeting this month will feature a celebration of the proud culture of the African Diaspora. The meeting will be on February 14 at 6:30 pm. The program will include performances by the following: Drum Song African Dance Troupe, the PS 161 chorus – the Crown Diamonds, a spoken word artist. In addition to the entertainment, we have several special guests who will be in attendance. Refreshments will be served and parking will be available in the backyard.

Artists in the Midst!

Did you know that PS 161 is home to celebrated authors! Mutiya and David Vision are a husband-and-wife team that epitomize the word inspiration. They have developed tools - books, music, art, poetry - to help children thrive above and beyond their capabilities. Check out their website for more information on book titles.

Negro History Week

Did you know that Black History Month began as "Negro History Week". And we have Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the son of former slaves, to thank for the annual time of reflection on our achievements. The following is bio on Dr. Woodson from

Dr. Woodson spent his childhood working in the Kentucky coal mines and enrolled in high school at age twenty. He graduated within two years and later went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. The scholar was disturbed to find in his studies that history books largely ignored the black American population - and when blacks did figure into the picture, it was generally in ways that reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time.

Woodson, always one to act on his ambitions, decided to take on the challenge of writing black Americans into the nation's history. He established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now called the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History) in 1915, and a year later founded the widely respected Journal of Negro History. In 1926, he launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history.

Woodson chose the second week of February for Negro History Week because it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced the black American population, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. However, February has much more than Douglass and Lincoln to show for its significance in black American history. For example:

February 23, 1868:
W. E. B. DuBois, important civil rights leader and co-founder of the NAACP, was born.
February 3, 1870:
The 15th Amendment was passed, granting blacks the right to vote.
February 25, 1870:
The first black U.S. senator, Hiram R. Revels (1822-1901), took his oath of office.
February 12, 1909:
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded by a group of concerned black and white citizens in New York City.
February 1, 1960:
In what would become a civil-rights movement milestone, a group of black Greensboro, N.C., college students began a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter.
February 21, 1965:
Malcolm X, the militant leader who promoted Black Nationalism, was shot to death by three Black Muslims.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

For a King Celebrate!

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

On this day, January 21, many people across this country are home because of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Are you catching up on extra ZZZs - please don't just use this as a day off. Make Dr. King's life and work mean something - there are many ways big and small to contribute to your community. If we all do something, we can make a change.

Friday, January 18, 2008


EXTREMELY IMPORTANT - Per the NYC Department of Education:

Starting in the 2008-09 school year, eighth-graders will be promoted to high school by

• Scoring at Level 2 (basic) or above on both the Math and ELA assessments
AND passing all core academic subjects (ELA, math, social studies, science)

If a student does not meet the requirements during the school year, the student may
• Appeal a promotion decision based on a standardized rubric
• Attend summer school and retake tests or failed courses

Yes, you read correctly. The DOE will hold town hall meetings in all five boroughs on its proposed 8th grade promotion policy. Members of the public can also submit comments via e-mail to 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.

If you are concerned about this, then please attend one of the meetings below and let your voice be heard. The dates and locations of the town hall meetings are below:

When: Tuesday, March 4
Where: Brooklyn Technical High School (29 Fort Greene Pl.)

When: Tuesday, February 26
Where: High School of Fashion Industries (225 W. 24th St.)

When: Thursday, March 6
Where: Hillcrest High School (160-05 Highland Ave.)

Staten Island
When: Thursday, February 28
Where: Michael J. Petrides High School (715 Ocean Terrace)
When: Tuesday, March 11
Where: Evander Childs HS (800 E. Gun Hill Rd.)

Chancellor Klein Announces Middle School Fairs

Press Release from the New York City Department of Education:

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced the schedule for middle school fairs that will be held in the 22 school districts Citywide that offer middle school choice to students. The fairs begin on January 15, 2008, and are part of the first Citywide middle school admissions calendar, which replaces the various calendars used by individual districts in previous years. Middle school applications will be available at elementary schools beginning the week of January 21 and are due February 6. Families will be notified of placements in May. Although this new calendar applies Citywide, admissions criteria and placement decisions will continue as they have in previous years. Specific information about middle school options in each district, including selection criteria and eligibility rules, are available in the middle school directories that elementary school students will receive before the fairs.

Click here for the full schedule.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Daring to be different

We've heard it a million times - children in a certain demographic only aspire to be rappers or basketball players (not that there is anything wrong with that).

But some folks are proving themselves to be trailblazers and are showing that a black man does not fit in a tidy box.

Barrington Irving - He shunned the drugs and gangs of his Miami neighborhood for his dream of flying – now he helps other kids soar. Read more of the youngest pilot to fly solo around the world and also the first African-American to do so. The Christian Science Monitor has great article on Barrington - read it here.

Reggie Fils-Aime - How many children received gaming systems over the holidays? Well this past year the hottest thing around town has been the Nintendo Wii. The man credited with the revolutionary marketing of the Wii is Reginald "Reggie" Fils-Aime, a first generation American born to Haitian parents (yes I said Haitian). Reggie is President and Chief Operating Officer of Nintendo of America. Reggie endeared himself to his fans and became a cult favorite for his passion of gaming and his antics during press conferences. Read a profile of Reggie here.

Michael Lee-Chin - If numbers are your thing, then look no further than to Michael Lee-Chin who is a self-made billionaire from Canada. Michael was born in Jamaica and finished his education in Canada. According to Canadian Business Magazine, he is one of Canada's richest men and made his fortune in the investment world. Michael is still deeply involved in the Caribbean as he is the Chairman of the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica. Read his profile from an article on - click here.

Finally, if you set your sights even higher, then all of your hard work, integrity, humility, intelligence can maybe earn you the title..... President.

Yeah, these seem to far more interesting and rewarding career choices don't you think?


Thank you for attending the PTA meeting last Monday - we had a wonderful turnout. There were prizes, prizes and more prizes. Our special guests for the evening, representatives from Carver Federal Savings Bank spoke about the importance of saving early to obtain financial security. The Carver reps (Anthony Grant, Vice President & Area Manager; Cynthia L. Boyce, Carver Community Development Corp.; Sharon Banks, Crown Heights Branch Manager) also mentioned that the bank would match up to $10 any account opened by one of our PS 161 students. To kick off the savings bonanza, Mrs. Barrett offered $100 out of pocket for 10 children to start their savings account. The PTA offered an additional $100. By the end of the evening, 20 children had received $10 to start funding their accounts! There were prizes for adults as well, 4 gift certificates to Barnes and Noble were raffled off, as well as 10 copies of Bill Cosby’s latest book.

The Crown Gems book club is back. To kick off our return, the first selection is Bill Cosby’s, Come on, People!: On the Path from Victims to Victors. Several copies were raffled at the PTA meeting, but we are asking folks to share with their friends and neighbors. This book is available at the local library and bookstores. Notices will be sent home in the coming weeks announcing the meeting date for the discussion.

In honor of Black History Month, the February PTA meeting will be a celebration rather then a meeting. Dancing, spoken word, singing and more will be featured at this performance. Please save the date, Thursday, February 14, 2008 (yes, Valentines Day!)

Also for Black History month, back by popular demand, the Saturday Family Movie Festival will feature popular wholesome movies, starring, directed or produced by the greats in our community. The dates scheduled are as follows: February 2, February 9, March 1 and March 8. Stay tuned for more details.

Picture Day was a resounding success - for the most part! Some folks have yet to receive their package, or would like to order more. The best and quickest way to resolve these issues is to contact the company Irvin Simon Photographers and speak to our assigned customer service rep. Laura Fisher. The telephone number is 516.437.4700 extension 221. If you do leave your details in the main office or use the customer service rep, you will need the following information: your child’s name and class, the teacher’s name and the package that you ordered.

Finally, on Monday, January 21, our school along with many U.S. institutions will be closed in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was a visionary who decided to stand up for those around him. He and those who worked with him understood that the only way to change the destiny of all black folk was to ensure equality for all. Don’t close the doors opened by Dr. King and all the other pioneers. This weekend rather than just using the extra day to shop, hang out or sleep late, take a moment to think of Dr. King and while you’re at it, how about some community service!


Filed under: it's never too early

This past Monday, at the PTA Meeting, Mrs. Barrett mention that the Tom Joyner Foundation is offering "full ride" scholarships for graduating high school seniors. Deadline for applications is January 18, 2008. Click here to get to the website and the application.

And the other side of the spectrum, Harvard University announced the following initiatives in 2006:

Financial aid: Beginning next year, parents in families with incomes of less than $40,000 will no longer be expected to contribute to the cost of attending Harvard for their children. In addition, Harvard will reduce the contributions expected of families with incomes between $40,000 and $60,000.

Recruiting: The College is intensifying its efforts to reach out to talented students across the nation who might not think of Harvard as an option. Harvard College is seeking to make sure students understand that Harvard has a long-standing commitment to enrolling students from a wide range of backgrounds and regardless of financial circumstances.

Admissions: Harvard is re-emphasizing, in the context of its highly personalized admissions process, the policy of taking note of applicants who have remarkable accomplishments despite limited resources at home or in their local schools and communities.

Pipeline: Harvard recently announced the establishment of an intensive summer program - the Crimson Summer Academy - for academically talented high school students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds in the Greater Boston area. Each student will participate for three successive summers, beginning after ninth grade, receiving encouragement and preparation to attend a challenging four-year college or university.

Please go to their website for more details about the initiatives listed above.

Monday, January 14, 2008

PTA Meeting Tonight

Please join us for the January PTA meeting this evening. Tonight's agenda includes special guests from Carver Bank offering some priceless tips on the importance of good fiscal health. In addition, Student of the Month certificates will be awarded to the latest recipients.

Refreshments will be served and as always, parking is available in the school yard. The meeting begins at 6:30 pm.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Title I Parents and Representatives

From The Office for Family Engagement and Advocacy (OFEA):

SAVE THE DATE: Wednesday, January 23, 2008

1st Meeting of the Title I Citywide Committee

St. Francis College
Founders Hall
180 Remsen Street (between Joralemon and Montague Streets)
Brooklyn, New York 11201

9:30 am – 12:00 pm

Subway Travel Directions: 2, 3, 4, 5 to Borough Hall or M, N and R to Court Street

Please plan to attend this important meeting! Invited guests from the Department of Education and the New York State Education Department will also join us! Please confirm your attendance by contacting the OFEA by Friday, January 18th at (212) 374-0801.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Today is the first of many testing days for NYC Public School children, particularly, our PS 161 family. Remember that you cannot cram for these tests. The best strategy at this point is to:

1) stay calm

2) get a good night sleep

3) eat a solid breakfast

4) don't forget your pencils - at least 3 #2 pencils



6) MAKE SURE THAT YOU BUBBLING IN THE ANSWER ON THE SCANTRON SHEET THAT corresponds to the question in the booklet

7) And remember, STAY CALM!!!

Friday, January 04, 2008

January Calendar

The school calendar for January was sent home yesterday and the following are some highlights:

January 3 - Gifted/Talented Applications Due

January 8 & 9 - ELA State Assessments Grades 3, 4 & 5

January 9 - CSLJ Parent Meeting: 7:30 am & 6:00 pm

January 10 - ELA State Assessment Grade 4

January 11 - U.F.T. Parent Workshop: Academic Performance 9:00 am

January 14 - PTA Meeting 6:30 pm (Student of the Month recognition)

January 15 & 16 - ELA State Assessment Grades 6, 7 & 8

January 15 - School Leadership Team meeting: 5:45 pm

January 17 - ELA State Assessment Grade 6

January 18 - Parents Math Workshop Grade 4: 9:00 am

January 21 - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day - school closed

January 23 - Parents Math Workshop Grades 3 & 5: 9:00 am

January 24 - School wide Math Predictive Test Grades 3-8

January 25 - Parents Math Workshop Grade 6: 9:00 am

January 29 - Parents LEAP Literacy Workshop Grades K-2: 9:30 am

January 31 - Parents Math Workshop Grades 7 & 8: 7:30 am

Please be sure to check your child's bookbag for the following calendar.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A New Year and a New You

Happy New Year and welcome back to school. January brings with it along with the resolutions and promises a chance to start over and 'get things right' for the new year. One of the things to get right, is being prepared for the myriad of tests coming up. The first one, next week is the ELA - Monday, January 7 - 11 for grades 3, 4 and 5. Then on Monday, January 14 - 18 for grades 6, 7 and 8. Please click here for the entire exam schedule for the 2007-2008 school year.

While there is no way to 'study' for these exams, consistent hard work and organization is definitely a way to succeed. The New York Times had an interesting article on January 1, 2008 about ways for boys to succeed in school. The article points out that boys even through high school seem to have a harder time focusing and getting organizing themselves - often losing things in their bookbags! Check out this interesting read right here.