By Charles Hack
Parents interested in improving after-school programs, the health of their kids and the condition of their schools should attend upcoming Community Education Council District 15 monthly meetings. Education council members plotted the programs for the coming months at their working session at 131 Livingston Street on Jan. 5. This calendar year will kick off with a review of the school’s capital plan on Jan. 19, at M.S. 447 Math and Science Exploratory School at 345 Dean St. This will inform teachers and students which upgrades and big-ticket repairs are planned for their schools. It will also provide a chance for parents and teachers to tell a representative from the School Construction Authority what work most needs to be done at their school. For the Feb. 16 meeting, which is scheduled to be held at P.S. 107 at 1391 8th Ave., CEC 15 plans to explore how underserved schools can work with organizations to improve after-school programs and other support services. Some schools have been very successful at setting up community partnerships with organizations such as the After School Corporation, Good Shepherd Services, and Brooklyn Museum of Art. Others have a long way to go, and this session would be an opportunity for principals and parents at those schools to learn how to close the gap. “Some schools have lots and lots of partnerships. How did they development them?” Mary-Powel Thomas, president of the Community Education Council District 15, wants to know. The aim of the session will be to find which options are available, deadlines for applications, and qualification requirements for grants. Related to community partnerships is how schools can attract grants for improvements — for example, to pay for new playgrounds and computers. CEC members also discussed the possibility of holding a student presentation to recognize Black History Month at the upcoming February meeting. Parents and teachers who are interested in learning how schools chancellor Joel I. Klein’s vision will affect their kids should attend the March 16 meeting when he will be a guest speaker. The CEC also plans to have a presentation on the HIV/AIDS curriculum at that meeting. April and May meetings may include a look at how to enhance parent engagement, what test scores tell us about achievement, and how to protect kids’ heath. Since health is so entwined with well-being and academic achievement, CEC plans to address how schools can promote better nutrition and fitness. The CEC may hold a session or two on looking at the nutritional value of school lunches and promoting physical fitness. In addition, studies show that lead poisoning can adversely affect academic achievement, Thomas said. “Lead has a real impact on how they perform,” she said. Thomas said that changing diet could help remove lead poisoning from the bloodstream. After her son was discovered to have elevated levels of lead, Thomas found that providing him with a diet rich in red meat – which is high in iron – milk and vegetables helped to reduce lead levels in his body. A session will also be dedicated to discussing test scores and how they indicate differences in achievement between demographic groups such as race, gender and income. Of particular interest to Thomas is how third-graders who were held back two years ago because of low test scores are progressing academically. The council wants to discuss parent engagement, to inform parents how to become more involved in their childrens’ schools, through, for example, parent teacher associations, parent advisory counsels and community education councils. Other scheduled events could include recognizing volunteers; a discussion on gifted and talented schools; extending dual language classes from elementary schools to middle schools; and information sessions on the school curriculum. Because the selection process for middle schools proves problematic for many parents who find it difficult to collect enough information to make an informed decision, CEC15 members resolved to look into the possibility of helping parents narrow the choice by providing virtual tours online or by DVDs of the schools. Dates for upcoming public meetings include: Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. at Brooklyn High School of the Arts at 345 Dean St. between 3rd and 4th avenues; Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. at P.S. 107 at 1301 8th Ave. between 13th and 14th avenues; March 16 at 7 p.m. at Brooklyn New School at 610 Henry St. at 3rd Place; April 27 at 7 p.m. at P.S. 131 at 4305 Fort Hamilton Pkwy. between 42nd and 43rd streets; May 18 at 7 p.m. at P.S. 124 on Fourth Ave. between 13th and 14th streets; and June 15 at 7 p.m. at P.S. 295 at 330 18th St. between 6th and 7th avenues. For more information call (718) 935-4267.