2001-12-01 / Front Page

MS 180 Magnet: A Matter of Attitude’

By Howard Schwach

MS 180 Magnet:
A Matter of Attitude’
By Howard Schwach

Walk the halls of Middle School 180 in Rockaway Beach and you will find a "Word Of The Week" posted around the building.

The word of the week for this week is "attitude," and it is clear that both the school’s staff and its parents know that attitude is a key element in the revitalization of a school that was once called "Rockaway’s School of Champions."

In fact, many believe that it was the attitude of the parents who refused to send their children to the school because it was "unsafe" and because it did not address many of the extracurricular areas that were addressed in Brooklyn magnet schools.

George Giberti, the new acting interim principal of the school is hoping to change that attitude and he has a magnet grant from the federal government to assist him.

"The magnet program allows us to extend our curriculum, to enrich it," Giberti told a group of parents gathered for a meeting at the school early one morning this week. "The grant specifically will allow us to bring our Law and Forensics thematic units to all of the students at the school."

"We are going to focus on ten-week cycles with a very specific curriculum," he added. This will allow us to do lots of project-based activities that will allow students to apply the knowledge they have gained in the classroom."

Giberti points out, however, that the term "forensics" is misleading to some in the community.

"This is not forensic medicine or forensic science," he says with a laugh. "You’re not going to get kids working on crime scenes a la "CSI," and you’re not going to find them doing autopsies."

The forensics that the grant addresses is rather the use of language in solving problems.

The question in the background for each of the people at the meeting was "will this program bring back the students who left for other schools and will it retain the kids coming from the feeder schools?"

Nobody is sure of the answer to that question.

"We have a huge marketing job to do," said Ronni Schwab, a member of Community School Board 27 and a member of the magnet committee. "We have to sell our product to parents and we have to make sure that the product we have is worth selling."

"There is a Catch-22 involved here," she added. "You can’t convince the parents to send their kids to this school until some kids have been successful in the program."

"To keep the kids from leaving the feeder schools and going elsewhere, we must offer more than a core program," Giberti adds. "We need programs in art, music, drama, dance and recreational programs."

He admitted, however, that with the board of education’s new austerity budget, he might not have the wherewithal to do those things.

This is the first year of the grant, according to Giberti, and most of it will be spent planning, writing curriculum and hiring staff.

He expects a program facilitator, a teacher from another district school, to be on board shortly.

He also plans to work towards getting additional funding through corporate and foundation grants.

"We have to do more if we really want to bring the kids back to MS 180," Giberti concluded.

"We have to prove to parents that the school is safe and we have to prove that our programs equal those of the schools they are now applying to.

"It is a matter of attitude," he says, "and we will change parental attitudes and revitalize this school."

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