Faiza Khalid, the chapter leader at PS 36 in Harlem, used the consultation process to get some unwelcome guests kicked off school grounds this year: a troop of rowdy raccoons.
“We had at least six that I know of; the school was apparently a very desirable place for them to live,” said Khalid, who teaches technology and computer science at PS 36.
The raccoon population was a health and safety issue for the school because they can bite and scratch and often carry rabies.
The first raccoon sighting occurred in April 2022.
“A teacher across the hall spotted raccoons outside her window,” explained Khalid. “She reported it to the office and an announcement was made for everyone to close their windows.”
Then another teacher saw a raccoon hanging out on top of her classroom’s air conditioning unit.
The members of Khalid’s school chapter were concerned that merely closing their windows wasn’t enough to solve the problem. They were also worried about whether their classrooms would get proper ventilation — a need rendered more acute by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Khalid brought up the raccoon issue in her next consultation committee meeting with the principal. “The committee deals with contract issues and anything that impacts the students or impacts the staff, sometimes not even contractual issues,” she said. “We met with the principal and discussed what course of action was going to be taken.”
Khalid asked her members to report raccoon sightings to the principal via email and copy her so she could follow up.
The principal went through the Department of Education to reach the city’s Animal Care and Control agency, which distributed cages on the grounds to catch the raccoons.
Khalid and the other PS 36 staff kept on the principal to make sure the cages were retrieved in a timely manner. “We don’t want these animals to suffer or endure pain,” she said.
Khalid said there’s been only a single raccoon sighting since the animal control agency got involved.
The raccoon issue provided a teachable moment for some of the educators at the school.
"Teachers made it a learning experience for students," Khalid said. "A couple of 4th-grade teachers took their students to observe the raccoons in the park and learn where they live and what they eat."
Her colleagues are delighted at what their chapter leader accomplished.
Special education teacher Cheryl Simon, who competed for her students’ attention with the raccoon outside her classroom window, said Khalid did a great job working to resolve the issue.
“We felt confident that whatever concerns we relayed to her would be addressed, and they were,” Simon said.