PS/IS 686 | Brooklyn, NY

State of the Union: Class Size

Hello all,

In 2010 when Councilman David Greenfield gave our school $265,000 he had one request – not only of me, as principal, but of the families, too: consider the needs of children everywhere, don’t think only of our own provincial needs.

My own children, now 17 and 23, spent their youth in NYC public schools. Masterful teachers and administration continue to leave indelible footprints on their collective experience. Yet, as a parent, I’ve always felt something lacking, something that a more holistic approach might satisfy.

My guys never brought home artwork. In 18 years, I can count on one hand the number of chorus, drama or dance performances my husband and I attended. If the boys wanted to play an instrument – viola, saxophone, piano, and guitar – it had to happen after school. Chess? Only with their friends, and us, and at home.  Forget about tennis.

Not only is intellectual rigor and inquiry at the center of what we’re creating at BSI, but the notion of that more holistic experience is alive and well on Avenue P. The community and overall educational experience we’re creating and nurturing to capacity render us a destination for students far and wide: there will never be enough seats at BSI to satisfy the number of families who want to join us.

We hear from these families daily, weekly, monthly. Every year. “If only there were one more seat. If only there were more schools just like ours.” The reputation we enjoy citywide is what drives our class size.

David Brooks included an interesting David Foster Wallace quote in this NYT op-ed today that resonates with me: “It may sound reactionary, I know. But we can all feel it. We’ve changed the way we think of ourselves as citizens. We don’t think of ourselves as citizens in the old sense of being small parts of something larger and infinitely more important to which we have serious responsibilities. We do still think of ourselves as citizens in the sense of being beneficiaries — we’re actually conscious of our rights as American citizens and the nation’s responsibilities to us and ensuring we get our share of the American pie.”

As a NYC public school principal and as a parent, I live to embody this ‘old sense of citizenship’ that David Foster Wallace laments here. I think it’s what Greenfield meant about thinking beyond our own provincial needs.

One Tribe.