Tag Archives: Universal Pre-Kindergarten

EXCLUSIVE: City’s first lady talks with The Courier about education, mental health


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Calling Queens “a model” of what New York City can be, the city’s first lady Chirlane McCray outlined her efforts to expand education and mental health programs in an exclusive interview with The Courier.

McCray sat down with Courier Publisher Victoria Schneps-Yunis following an open forum in Kew Gardens on mental health issues affecting Queens residents on Monday. She and her husband, Mayor Bill de Blasio, have made a concerted effort toward focusing on mental health issues and breaking down barriers preventing New Yorkers in need from obtaining access to appropriate care.

Providing residents with proper access to mental health services and other basic needs is essential to a healthy city both in mind and body, yet many New Yorkers have been deprived of them in recent years, according to McCray.

“Having the resources to have a roof over your head, access to food, clean air, arts, physical education, so many other things we consider common sense and basic, yet we take them away,” she said. “When you strip them away from a community, what do you expect to happen?”

McCray stressed the importance of the city not only providing basic services to its residents but also using programs to develop role models for the city’s youth.

“There are so many” mentoring programs “but we need more,” she said. “Through the Mayor’s Fund, we have instituted a youth employment center” powered through donations from local businesses which provide “jobs for young people.”

“But it’s not just jobs,” McCray added. “It’s internships and mentoring young people year-round. We’ve doubled the number of jobs since last year, and we want to do even more in the coming months.”

The city is also expanding its mental health resources through special clinics aimed at helping 62,000 students in need. The universal pre-kindergarten (UPK) also plays a critical role in a child’s mental health and long-term education, she noted.

“One of the reasons why pre-K is so important is to reach the children early,” McCray said. “We want children to be assessed, evaluated early because if they have challenges in the classroom, they’re not going to get the kind of education they need.”

The first lady also noted that the NYPD is receiving additional resources not just to tackle crime, but also to address the mental health needs of crime victims.

“We’ve actually put money into making sure that in every precinct, there will be someone trained in” handling domestic violence cases “and working with victims,” McCray said. “We’ve never had that before.”

This effort, she remarked, will help develop “a different kind of relationship” between the NYPD and the communities it serves.

The full interview can be viewed below.

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Queens Library announces library-based UPK classes this fall


| events@queensny.org

PAULINA TAM

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vision for universal pre-kindergarten is becoming a reality at two Queens Library locations.

Starting this fall, Queens Library at Woodhaven, at 85-41 Forest Parkway, and Queens Library at Ravenswood, at 35-32 21st St., will provide early childhood teaching. Licensed early childhood instructors selected by the library will be facilitating the schooling, the library said in a statement.

“Queens Library is dedicated to lifelong learning. No time in a child’s life is as important to academic success as the early learning years, and there is no better place to create good readers than at the library,” Queens Library president Thomas Galante said in the statement. “Having universal pre-K in the library will also present the opportunity to connect other members of the family with programs, including adult education, ESOL, computer training, job search help. There is so much Queens Library offers to enrich lives.”

Exact start dates have not been announced.

 

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Stats show universal pre-K’s limited reach in western, central Queens


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo by Rob Bennett for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio

Only 30 percent of 4-year-olds in parts of western and central Queens got into the pre-K of their choice, the lowest percentage of matched applicants in all of New York City.

Parents in Queens District 24 — Corona, Glendale, Ridgewood, Elmhurst, Long Island City, Maspeth and Middle Village — must now search for an alternative to public schools.

According to the Department of Education, the majority of parents with 4-year-olds — 70 percent — in the district recently received letters informing them that the public pre-K of their choice was already full.

In comparison, in Manhattan’s District 1 only 10 percent of applicants were unmatched and, overall, 38 percent of applicants throughout New York City were unmatched.

“Every single school in this district is overcrowded,” said Nick Comaianni, president of School Board District 24. “In the past we’ve actually had to get rid of pre-K seats to make room for kindergarten to fifth grade.”

As the city changes gears for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s aim to make pre-K universal, the DOE is using community-based organizations like local YMCAs and mom-and-pop pre-K programs to scoop up the applicants that didn’t get into a public school pre-K.

But Comaianni, who has been president of the board for 11 years, believes that the mayor’s office and the DOE are moving too fast.

“Someone should’ve done their homework before pushing pre-K through so quickly,” he said, noting that since the schools in the district are already overcrowded, there is no extra space for more students. “You can’t have pre-K if you don’t even have second grade.”

The DOE is opening up 53,000 full-day seats through community-based organizations in time for the new school year in September. While this will still leave some toddlers behind, by next year there will be 73,250 seats, enough to put every 4-year-old in New York City in school, according to education officials.

Which is just fine, Comaianni said, but warned: “In our haste to open these seats let’s hope we have qualified people who can teach pre-K and it’s not just a baby-sitting center.

Queens by school district:

Source: Office of Student Enrollment

 

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Op-ed: Our children win with universal pre-K


| oped@queenscourier.com

COUNCILWOMAN JULISSA FERRERAS

After months of rallying for the future of our children, our voices have finally been heard! Last week, our state legislators approved $300 million in funding for universal pre-kindergarten programs in their final budget. This is historic. We are now poised to ensure every child has access to high-quality, full-day pre-K.

The City’s plan is moving forward, and in less than six months, a new school year will begin, giving tens of thousands of our children access to full-day pre-K and thousands more middle-schoolers access to a safe, educational place to go after school.

Imagine the difference this will make for kids who will now start learning a year earlier. Imagine what it means for working parents!

As a former director of a Beacon program at P.S. 19 in Corona, it was my privilege to watch the effect of high-quality programming on young people who would otherwise be falling behind. Just as early education, including pre-K, is vital to a child’s success later in life, after-school for young adolescents is a bridge that helps them maintain momentum—or, in the case of struggling students, a way to regain lost time and get back on track. Studies show that children who participate in these programs behave better in school, do better in class and on tests, and have improved attendance records.

With this new, dedicated funding from Albany, the people who win here are parents and children. New York City is ready to move forward. We’ve been moving aggressively to put all the pieces in place to be ready for the fall.

Thanks to the work of Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and my colleagues in our city and state government, we are making history. As a new mother, I cannot tell you how excited I am about this momentous change. These are game-changing solutions that will reach every child. They’re the kind of solutions that unite communities and improve our schools.

If you live in New York City and your child is turning 4 years old in 2014, it’s time to think about applying to pre-K. Here’s what you need to know:

• Children turning 4 years old in 2014 who live in New York City are eligible to attend pre-K programs.

• Pre-K is free. You do not have to pay to attend programs offered by the NYC Department of Education.

• Programs can be half-day (2 hours and 30 minutes) or full-day (6 hours and 20 minutes). Half-day programs may take place in the morning or afternoon.

• Programs are available at public schools and community-based organizations (CBOs). There are separate application processes for public schools and CBOs.

The pre-K application period has been extended to April 23. The online application for pre-K is currently available in English and Spanish on www.schools.nyc.gov. You can also apply in person at your nearest Queens Enrollment Office, which are listed on the website. If you have any questions or need further information, please call (718) 935-2009. Our children’s future begins today.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras represents the 21st Council District encompassing Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. She is also the Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Finance.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer discusses vision for new majority leader role


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ File Photo

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer is looking forward to the next four years as majority leader.

Van Bramer was appointed on Jan. 22 by newly elected City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

“It’s a great honor, not only for me, but for our district, for our team and for Queens,” Van Bramer said. “It was a very humbling experience. It took a while to sink in.”

As majority leader, his key role is working together with the 48 Democratic members of the City Council and serving as a bridge between them and Mark-Viverito.

Van Bramer has also been named co-chair of the Council’s Budget Negotiating Team.

Since his appointment, the councilmember has hit the ground running and plans to get involved in working on subjects such as paid sick leave and universal pre-kindergarten.

“We are active every single day and I am looking forward to being a very influential majority leader over the next four years,” he said.

Van Bramer hopes to work together with his fellow councilmembers to help in any way he can.

“I’m here to help them achieve their goals and to use my office and my proximity to the speaker to advance their goals, their agendas and their districts,” he said. “I hope that they will call on me anytime they need and I will go to the speaker and advocate for them in every way I can. That’s the kind of majority leader I want to be.”

The councilmember also retained his position as chair of the Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee. He plans to continue working with the libraries and growing cultural community to make sure the budgets and appropriate funds work for them.

“I’m excited about the work ahead,” said Van Bramer. “It’s a great time and I feel reinvigorated. I am going to work incredibly hard in being the best majority leader that I can be and then the future will take care of itself.”

 

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OpEd: The advantages of Universal Pre-Kindergarten


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY WILLIAM NELSON

We at the Flushing YMCA are once again delighted to have the opportunity to serve families through the Department of Education funded Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program (UPK). Research supports that high quality early childhood programs such as “Universal Pre-Kindergarten” give four-year-old children the best opportunity to be prepared and gain the readiness skills necessary for kindergarten.

From a social standpoint the UPK program provides children with the opportunity to develop confidence and a positive self image while forming friendships and engaging in classroom activities.

From an educational and developmental standpoint the UPK program provides meaningful and appropriate learning experiences in a caring, respectful environment.

Experienced teachers facilitate children’s learning across all areas of the curriculum, focusing on literacy, math and science, emotional, physical and aesthetic development.

Programs like ours at the Flushing YMCA have special programmatic enhancements such as computers, a lending library, take-home activity backbacks, an enclosed private outdoorplayground, an indoor gym, and on-going activities for families.  Parents have the opportunity to enroll their children in special enrichment programs as well as ballet.  Extended days are available to meet your needs as we are open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and provide FREE swim lessons as part of our program.

What you may not know, is that there are still plenty of free UPK slots available at quality programs through the YMCA network and through other non-profit organizations in your neighborhood.  Some of your children may be on waiting lists, but could be in a program now, where they can be establishing relationships with quality teachers and new friends.

If you are interested in UPK programs at your local YMCA, please check out the YMCA website at www.ymcanyc.org/flushing, or stop into the Flushing YMCA located at 138-46 Northern Boulevard.  Our number is 718-551-9356 or email Lois Rothstein at lrothstein@ymcanyc.org.

Let’s get slots filled and get your children enrolled so that they can get the great head start that they need to succeed!

William Nelson is executive director of the Flushing YMCA