PS 24 to switch support networks, 141 to stay put

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PS 24 is straddling two school networks.

Assistant Principal Manny Verdi said the school will officially join Children First Network 103 when the next fiscal year begins on Sunday, July 1. Until then, PS 24 will turn to Children First Network 104 for legal advice, personnel needs and other support while crafting its budget with help from CFN 103.

Public schools are required to join a network, or a cohort of schools that collaborate with a team of educators, to offer one another support in human relations, legal needs, professional development, special education, guidance counseling and other matters.

PS 24’s new network, CFN 103, focuses on streamlining schools’ operations so “the people who know schools best: principals, teachers and school staff” can focus on instruction and accelerating student achievement, according to its website. PS 24 will join Ampark Neighborhood School and Urban Science Academy as the third Bronx member of a predominately Manhattan-based network.

CFN 103’s affiliation with several academically successful schools appealed to PS 24. Mr. Verdi described the network as staffed with “people who work with schools that are pretty high achieving.”  The assistant principal said he knew the network was a good fit when it understood the “clubs” or enrichment models PS 24 uses without any explanation. 

“We’re kind of half in now. Once the new budget comes in, we’re supposed to work on the budget with the new network, but the other support still comes from the old network,” Mr. Verdi said.

PS 24 began interviewing school support organizations after hearing the team leader of its network was retiring. The school later learned Robert Cohen wouldn’t retire from leading CFN 104. 

PS 24 decided to remain with its new network for the sake of stability, according to Mr. Verdi.  He said the school already “made a connection,” and considered the first year a test run. 

“If it doesn’t work out, we’ll go back to where we came from,” Mr. Verdi said.

Although PS 24 mainly relies on its current network for security, financial and personnel assistance, Mr. Verdi said CFN 103’s instructional focus matched the school’s priorities.

“On an ongoing basis, day to day, we’re usually calling up for information from central [DOE offices] that gets filtered through them [the network],” he said. “They’re instructionally-based and that’s where we’re looking to move in the future.”

News that Mr. Cohen planned to retire also inspired the David A. Stein Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy, MS/HS 141 to hunt around for a new network. RKA explored joining a support organization run by Fordham University, just as PS 24 did. But RKA administrators decided to stay with the school’s current network once they learned Mr. Cohen would remain at its helm.

Principal Lori O’Mara said CFN 104 gave her access to “long-timers in the Department of Education” with lots of experience. She was pleased with the services it offered, and above all, Ms. O’Mara said she was sold on the community CFN 104 created.

“Many of our other local schools are in the same network. That has been a great benefit for us,” Ms. O’Mara said. “It gives us an opportunity to network and an opportunity to meet with one another and address issues, happenings or things that we have in common.”

CFN 104’s mission is to “improve student performance by working with the whole student — academics and social-emotional” with help from network members.

Nearly all of the network’s schools are in the Bronx.

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