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Schoolbook

De Blasio Names Trusted Advisor to Lead Schools

Monday, December 30, 2013

A former teacher, principal and administrator under Bloomberg has been named to the top job in New York City's school system. As chancellor, Carmen Fariña promises to allow educators and parents more say in their local schools.

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Schoolbook

PTAs Rally to Assist Sandy Relief Efforts

Monday, November 05, 2012

The well-oiled volunteer network of parents involved in their local PTAs sprung into action after Sandy to put their fund-raising and outreach expertise to good use, often miles beyond the boundaries of their local schools.

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The Munchkins Are a Problem: The Wonderful Land of Oz

Friday, May 04, 2012

On the day of the fifth grade musical, Helene Stapinski is picking up balloons, putting final touches on the set, opening windows -- and running around the building trying to find her mother-in-law a pillow to cushion her healing hip. But soon the curtain opens, and .... Find out what happens in this final installment of "The Munchkins Are a Problem: One Mom’s Struggle to Direct the Fifth-Grade School Play."

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P.S. 29 Parents Grill Officials Over Construction

Friday, April 27, 2012

For more than three hours in a packed auditorium at Public School 29 John M. Harrigan in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, on Thursday night, parents took representatives from the School Construction Authority to task for what they deemed “unacceptable behavior” involving a $7 million maintenance and upkeep project that began at the school at the end of February.

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The Munchkins Are a Problem: Technical Difficulties

Friday, April 27, 2012

After hours pouring glitter to create the yellow brick road on the backdrop, Helene Stapinski realizes: the set is so crowded, no one can even see it. That's just one of the problems encountered as P.S. 29's fifth-grade production of "The Wizard of Oz" heads toward opening night. The writer, a reluctant and then obsessive parent volunteer co-director, worries that the actors won't be able to follow stage directions. And clearly some of the parents can't follow directions, either.

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Schoolbook

Decision Looms for City Schools

Thursday, April 26, 2012

UPDATED | The Panel for Educational Policy, a city board controlled by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, will vote on the recommendation to close 24 city schools (two others were given reprieves early Thursday). The schools, which Mr. Bloomberg wants to make part of a federal "turnaround" program to be eligible for nearly $60 million in federal money, will be closed at the end of this school year and reopened by fall, with up to half their staffs and, in many cases their administrations, replaced.

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Testing Absurdities, Reading Worries and Robo-Grading

Monday, April 23, 2012

English Language Arts exam week ended on Friday with the decision by state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. to scrap the answers to an absurd question -- literally and otherwise -- about a pineapple and a hare that had stymied eighth grade test takers. That was just one development in a flood of news this weekend about testing and grading -- including Michael Winerip's column in The Times about new computer software that "robo-grades" essays.

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The Munchkins Are a Problem: Call In the Teamsters

Friday, April 20, 2012

P.S. 29's fifth-grade musical is coming along, with parents putting the final touch on sets, costumes and staging. But even as the child actors' jazz fingers are flying, they are fuming over the yelling and tension around the production. And, writes Helene Stapinski, so is her husband. "You guys don't care if the kids have fun. You are doing this for you,” he tells her. Then it hits her: "My husband is right."

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The Munchkins Are a Problem: Hearts and Courage

Friday, April 13, 2012

The lesson of the Tin Man hits home at P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, as the weather warms and the fifth-grade production of "The Wizard of Oz" continues to come together. Helene Stapinski, a parent volunteer who is co-producing the musical, writes in this week's installment of "The Munchkins Are a Problem" about a school tragedy -- and how the show goes on.

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The Munchkins Are a Problem: The Sounds of Music

Friday, April 06, 2012

What seemed to be a cacophonous clump of performers is starting to sound like music and look like staging. For the first time since Helene Stapinski took on the task of co-directing the fifth-grade musical at P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, things are starting to come together. With Mary Leigh's lovely rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," she feels tears squeezing from her eyes -- but not tears of frustration. "They look so much older than they did six months ago," she writes wistfully, in this latest of weekly installments of "The Munchkins Are a Problem: One Mom's Struggle to Direct the Fifth-Grade School Play."

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The Munchkins Are a Problem: Parent Power, Power Parents

Friday, March 30, 2012

It's set-building time in the land of Oz, which has been temporarily transported to P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Helene Stapinski, who has volunteered, reluctantly, to co-direct the fifth-grade musical, finds herself surrounded by talented fellow parents who are nailing, painting, grommeting and creating. She writes: "When the assistant principal sees the sets and the Kansas house with its trick spring, she starts to worry. Maybe we’re putting too much work into the show, that the sets will outshine the children. She says this to Gina, who then calls me in a rage. 'Can you believe her? We’re making the sets look too nice! What does that even mean?' ''The Board of Ed is used to mediocrity,' I say, calming her, a strange role I’ve taken on lately."

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The Munchkins Are a Problem: There's No Place Like Home

Friday, March 23, 2012

All of the Dorothys, Scarecrows and even poppies have been cast. The fifth-grade's performers are officially in rehearsals for "The Wizard of Oz." And the household of the amateur co-producer, Helene Stapinski, is in a tizzy. Her husband, she writes in the latest installment of her school musical saga, says she always loads too much on her "metaphorical life plate," then takes her frustration and exhaustion out on him. "“He has a point," she writes, "but I fight with him anyway. Because I always take it out on him."

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The Munchkins Are a Problem: Casting About for Poppies Among the Dorothys

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Drama Club has been formed and the next step in producing "The Wizard of Oz" for the fifth-grade play is casting. Helene Stapinski, a reluctant -- and inexperienced -- parent producer, marvels at the children's bravery. "How on earth can they get up there like that and sing in front of me?" she asks in the latest installment of "The Munchkins Are a Problem." "Don’t they know I have no idea what I’m doing? That each and every one of them is better than I could ever be?"

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The Munchkins Are a Problem: Drama Club Drama

Friday, March 09, 2012

In last week's installment of "The Munchkins Are a Problem," Helene Stapinski wrote about how she reluctantly agreed to help produce the fifth-grade play at P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. This week the Drama Club holds it first meeting. Note to other play parents: leave the weapons props at home.

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The Munchkins Are a Problem: One Mom's Struggle to Direct the Fifth-Grade School Play

Friday, March 02, 2012

Helene Stapinski, author of "Five-Finger Discount," somehow wound up directing the fifth-grade play at her son's school. She writes, "Who knew when I signed up that my life would be thrown into chaos for 10 months? That I would risk my mental health and household order -- and even my marriage -- all for the sake of a few bows. I certainly didn’t. Nor did I know that by some small miracle, it might all be worth it." This is the first installment of her report from stage right (or is it stage left?), which will be presented on Fridays on SchoolBook.

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A Parent Says: Enough of the Blame Game With Teachers

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The teacher data reports have been released. Now what? A parent at Public School 321 in Park Slope says that for starters, "we must stop these attacks on our teachers. It is no way to treat one another and it is no way to improve education.''

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Ravitch Says New Evaluation System Is 'Madness'

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The public schools may be closed all week for February Break, but critics and other writers are busy examining the new teacher evaluation agreement that was reached last week. Among the critics: Diane Ravitch and The Daily News columnist, Juan Gonzalez.

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PTA Treasurer Admits Guilt and Will Pay Back What She Stole

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The treasurer of an elementary school PTA in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, pleaded guilty to theft charges and agreed to pay back all the money she embezzled. She started by handing over a check for $50,000, and promised to pay off the remaining $32,392.91 over two years.

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To Track or Not to Track: The Question Resurfaces

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

A new study raises fresh questions about a familiar issue: Are we giving top students short shrift? Yes, it is the old debate over tracking, and in light of the study's finding that top students "struggle to maintain their elite performance over the years," Room for Debate asks six experts their opinions. Surprisingly, given the ferocity and length of the educational battle, most of them favor some differentiated learning, but with caveats and twists.

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Behind the Scenes with Spike Lee’s 9/11 Tribute

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Children from several New York public schools were part of Spike Lee's State Farm tribute to 9/11. Here's how it happened.

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