Feature stories

Pride and prejudice

Public school celebrations drown out DeVos’ year of bias

The staff of PS 239 in Ridgewood, Queens showed their love for public schools.Jonathan FickiesThe staff of PS 239 in Ridgewood, Queens showed their love for public schools.

Betsy DeVos has visited just 36 schools in her first year as U.S. education secretary — and only about half of those have been traditional public schools, which educate the vast majority of American children.

To commemorate the one-year anniversary of DeVos’ appointment on Feb. 7, UFT members across New York City celebrated their public schools during National Public School Week on Feb. 5–9. Many used the hashtag #PublicSchoolProud on social media to show off pictures of their celebrations.

Staff members at PS 333 in Manhattan invite Betsy DeVos to visit their school.Jonathan FickiesStaff members at PS 333 in Manhattan invite Betsy DeVos to visit their school.

At many schools, educators pointedly invited DeVos to visit and see for herself the amazing work that public school educators do.

“New York City has one of the strongest education systems in the country, and somebody in her position should be willing to come and see it firsthand,” said Nicole Foglia, the chapter leader at PS 191 in Floral Park, Queens. “We have fantastic children, and I don’t think people realize the amount of work these children do and the progress they make.”

PS 191 was one of 23 schools in Queens’ District 26 where educators signed large invitations to DeVos. Many members shared photos of their cards on social media using the hashtag #InviteDeVos.

Staff members sign an invitation to DeVos at PS 229 in Maspeth, Queens.Jonathan FickiesStaff members sign an invitation to DeVos at PS 229 in Maspeth, Queens.

At PS 196 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a UFT Community Learning School and a participant in the Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence (PROSE) program, teachers wore matching T-shirts and proudly showed off the features that make their school unique — such as the hydroponics lab, the block room and the school store.

“We accept all children, no matter who they are or where they’re from,” said 1st-grade teacher Yanez Tavares. “Charter schools don’t do that. Private schools don’t do that.”

Angela Lee, the chapter leader and the art teacher at the Battery Park City Pre-K Center, finished her students’ unit on clothing with a Public School Proud celebration: Students drew and wrote on T-shirts what they love about their school.

“In Battery Park City, a lot of our parents might be thinking of straying to private school. We want to show them now how important it is to invest in our public schools,” Lee said.

PS 56 on Staten Island, which has had a long-running superhero motif, celebrated with a “PS 56 Super Proud” Day. Students and staff wore superhero shirts and costumes, ate Super Pretzels, listened to superhero theme music and wrote about why they were super proud to be at the school.

“Acting super proud is important to us because we want children to feel proud and successful every day,” said PS 56 Chapter Leader Susan Pulice. “We want our nation to know that we’re proud and lucky to work in a fantastic New York City public school."

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