Summer in the city

Fariña talks future of Summer Quest on visit to Bronx school

PHOTO: Jackie Schechter
Chancellor Carmen Fariña stops by the chicken coop outside P.S. 154 at the end of her visit to the Summer Quest site.

Chancellor Carmen Fariña met with students, administrators, and even a few chickens on a visit to a summer enrichment program at P.S. 154 in the South Bronx on Tuesday.

Fariña was there to promote Summer Quest, a free, five-week program that seeks to stem summer learning loss in Brooklyn and the South Bronx. While all Summer Quest sites combine academics and camp activities, this one also focuses on healthy living; its students were preparing to run a farmer’s market featuring produce from the school’s garden and eggs from the small chicken coop next to the school.

Summer Quest has grown nearly 60 percent since last year and is serving 2,800 low-income elementary and middle school students. This is the final summer of a three-year pilot, and Fariña said she hopes “to keep expanding it throughout the city.”

“Obviously we’re reviewing all the benefits to see if it’s really worth continuing,” she said. “We’re very excited about the results that we’re seeing, specifically the high level of student enthusiasm, parent involvement, and administrator happiness.”

After the visit, Fariña praised instructors for using hands-on learning to teach students new vocabulary and how to articulate their thoughts.

“Everywhere we went there were kids talking,” she said, “and part of the Common Core is having them build self-confidence and the ability to present an idea or something to an audience.”

Summer Quest students at P.S. 154 decorate egg cartons to use at their farmer's market.
Summer Quest students at P.S. 154 decorate egg cartons to use at their farmer’s market.

While the majority of Summer Quest students are enrolled in the program voluntarily, last year 9.7 percent of campers participated as an alternative to summer school.

That same year, Summer Quest’s third-through-eighth graders performed as well as summer school students on the city’s post-summer school exam, suggesting that a mix of academics and enrichment could be effective in place of a strictly academic program for students needing additional help before being promoted to the next grade.

At P.S. 154, 18 percent of this year’s Summer Quest students are mandated to attend in lieu of summer school. Assistant Principal and site director Jessica Cruz said the school was “very strategic” in recruiting students who struggled academically and could benefit most from the program.

“We have high achievers, we have students who are below grade level. They’re all working together,” P.S. 154 Principal Alison Coviello said, adding that the attendance rate at her site (84 percent so far) has increased from previous years, potentially because Summer Quest is combating the negative connotations of summer learning.

“Children are realizing that summer learning is so much fun,” she said.

But some students, like Janke Jagana, are all business. Jagana was mandated to attend Summer Quest, and while she enjoys the program, “I didn’t come here to have fun,” she said. “I came here to learn.”

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Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.