THE SECRET IS OUT
From its perch in the dramatic cliff top neighborhood of Hudson Heights, P.S. 187/Hudson Cliffs school is transforming from a well-kept secret to one of the best-regarded schools in the city. The school is growing along with its feeder neighborhood: the bustling, flourishing Washington Heights area. "The secret's out," jokes Principal Cynthia Chory. Chory was a student herself at the school, before returning as an assistant principal and then becoming principal. A Washington Heights native, Chory loves the caring community built up around the school, from the dedicated staff to the enthusiastic students and the extremely active parent body. Chory is not the only teacher who was once a student here: her staff includes 10 P.S. 187 alum. One-quarter of the staff, she says, has more than 20 years of experience in the classroom, "most of it in this building." Two weeks before the 2008 school year started, teachers returned to the building to decorate their classrooms and plan lessons. "They genuinely care. They want to see each child achieve his or her personal best," Chory said. To reinforce the concept of leading by example, Chory and another administrator are getting back into the classroom to teach this year. And the enthusiasm and dedication has spilled over into the expanding parent body. "The neighborhood always had parents who wanted to be involved," Chory said. "But within the last three years, the parents have been extremely active assisting with fundraising and having a voice in the school. We've had a baby boom in the area, so we've opened a fifth kindergarten class this year." The school also now offers pre-K as well. Some of the ways the parent association pitches in include classics like bake sales, helping to organize an Oasis-led afterschool program and running school picture day. The association also funds a once-a-week salad bar to encourage healthy eating. Other activities for the entire family-from "schoolapalooza" celebration nights to yoga classes and movie screenings-reflect an unusually tight-knit community. Science fairs, arts and music shows and a year-end "county fair" celebration even out the varied, event-filled calendar. P.S. 187 also helps parents and students-the vast majority of whom live in the area-adjust to changes. The school holds orientation sessions in the fall for new parents, and a moving-up ceremony to symbolize the start of middle school in 5th grade. The building's allocation of physical space even reflects attention to children's development. Pre-K students have their own entrance, and each age group has its own floor. The older elementary school students start moving around more, to prepare them for middle school. "It's a nice way for them to grow up," Chory said, explaining that elementary school students get the benefit of mentoring and in-classroom assistance from older, middle-school students. P.S. 187's classes are rigorous, but they also keep the needs of the whole range of learners in mind. The faculty is proud of rising scores on state exams. With the assistance of the local City Council Member, the school acquired 11 smart boards (each grade has one) to enhance the classroom experience, as well as laptop carts that enable the wide use of technology in class. Bigger and better plans are also in the works. Construction is beginning this year for a brand-new library; and in the summer of 2009, work will begin on two new science labs. -- P.S. 187/Hudson Cliffs 349 Cabrini Blvd. New York, N.Y. 10040 212-927-8218 Cynthia Chory, Principal --
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