CREATING AN INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY

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Principals of the Year

Beth Lubeck-Ceffalia grew up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where she had “fabulous teachers” who inspired her to give back to the community through education.
Today, she is not far from her childhood home, serving as principal at P.S. 132, The Conselyea School, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Lubeck-Ceffalia was an assistant principal at the pre-K-through-5th-grade school before being named principal five years ago. Being able to stay at the same school was a nice continuity, she said, although her new post as principal brings “a very different perspective.”
Before Lubeck-Ceffalia arrived, many felt that P.S. 132 was lacking a sense of community and an efficient way to communicate with parents. The surrounding Williamsburg neighborhood had become more family-friendly, but that influx of children wasn’t felt at the school; many parents preferred to send their kids to schools in Manhattan.

Beth Lubeck-Ceffalia launched events to include families and the community, like the fall harvest festival. Photo By: Daniel S. Burnstein
Beth Lubeck-Ceffalia launched events to include families and the community, like the fall harvest festival. Photo By: Daniel S. Burnstein

The school was also “very traditional,” according to parent Kimberly Wright, and lacked parent involvement and diversity.
“Beth is very young, but she uses that as an asset,” Wright said. “She has an energy and a vibrancy and is extremely responsive to parents.”
In order to improve the school, Lubeck-Ceffalia said she took a “let’s try it” attitude toward parent suggestions. Soon, parents were coming in to help teachers in the classroom. The principal started a blog on the school’s website, and administrators launched a baby play group designed to reach families who weren’t yet school-age.
“We would brainstorm and sit together,” Lubeck-Ceffalia said, adding that the group discussed issues that were important to people as both neighbors and parents.
“Everyone knows about the school now,” she added. “Our school has changed the Williamsburg community.”
In October, the school held its fourth annual harvest festival, which it happily opened to the surrounding community. Families and neighbors picked pumpkins, played games and enjoyed home-cooked foods from different cultures, said Wright, one of the event’s organizers.
In the spring, P.S. 132 holds a kite festival. Students invite parents and relatives to create kites, then the families take their kites and fly them together at nearby McCarren Park.
In keeping with the community theme, P.S. puts a big emphasis on volunteering and student service. Recent projects have included beautification efforts at McCarren Park and the launch of a school recycling program. Individual classes at P.S. 132 currently hold 16 of the top 25 spots in a “Service Counts” ranking kept by The League, a non-profit that encourages school community service. P.S. 132 has raised a total of $27,000 with 5,400 hours of community service, and four students were recently honored by President Bush at the White House for having completed 400-plus hours of community service.
Lubeck-Ceffalia feels like she gets value back from the students, too. The children’s love for the school shows in the way they say “hello” in the morning, the principal said, and in their enthusiasm and energy.
“It’s a really dynamic place,” Lubeck-Ceffalia said. “It’s a great place to be a principal.”

Principal Beth Lubeck-Ceffalia
P.S. 132, The Conselyea School
320 Manhattan Ave.
Brooklyn, N.Y.11211
718-599-7301, www.ps132andyou.net

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