Located in the Fordham Heights neighborhood of the Bronx, P.S. 9 became a community school in the fall of 2022 under the leadership of its Principal, Kinsley Jabouin, who has tirelessly advocated for cutting-edge resources and community-based support programs for his students and their families.
Working with his Community School Director (CSD) Joe Cruz of Replications, Inc., Principal Jabouin has enthusiastically embraced the community school model as a vehicle for increasing family engagement and improving school culture, two goals that are central to his vision for P.S. 9.
“P.S. 9 has definitely changed since embracing the Community Schools model. As with everything, it’s a shift in being adaptable. And I feel—as the CSD—that the school, the student body, staff, and community are seeing the transformation in P.S./C.S. 9,” says Cruz.
This commitment manifests itself in numerous ways that are visible throughout the school building. Partnering with Thrive Collective, P.S. 9 completed a school makeover that decorated the entire school building with murals depicting key figures in the community, including Bronx-born luminaries like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, as well as a memorial to the school’s beloved late librarian, Ms. Lucy Vigilant-Smith.
The murals also feature welcoming messages that ensure all students and families feel a sense of belonging, a school environment approach that is heightened by Principal Jabouin’s creative use of classroom and office doorways to display empowering quotes and culturally relevant iconography, often designed by the school’s students.
“The physical environment is a school’s silent teacher. When it’s clean, well-lit, and vibrant, it conveys a strong message to students and families that the children are valued, loved, and cared for,” says Principal Jabouin. ’
The murals and inspirational signs support Principal Jabouin’s vision that he shares with his students: “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” This commitment goes beyond the artistic displays and is infused into the entire school culture and in each individual classroom, where teachers encourage their students with a “glow and grow” approach that cultivates a positive growth mindset.
The robust instructional program includes a STEAM initiative that includes a new technology lab, coding classes, and even a 3-D printer. Even traditional classroom resources are used in innovative ways that keep students engaged, such as participating in a literary March Madness tournament to identify the favorite book among 32 read by an individual class.
In his continuing effort to show his students what Bronx children can achieve, Principal Jabouin hosted a book signing with NYC native Aiden M. Taylor, who became a published author at age 12 with “Me and My Afro,” which was inspired by his own experiences being teased about his hair.
He has also expanded the services provided on-site for students and families. To better support the dietary needs of his community, the cafeteria is now Halal certified. A robust adult education program is housed at P.S. 9, where families can learn English and work toward their GED. A new $2 million school-based health clinic is under construction, which will further P.S. 9’s role as a central community hub for its Fordham Heights community neighborhood.
Even the school’s physical plant has grown in recent years, with a fully functional annex serving four Pre-Kindergarten and four Kindergarten classrooms, and an extension to the main building providing elevator access to all floors.
Now that P.S. 9 has a community-based organization partner in Replications, Inc., led by experienced Community School Director Joe Cruz, the school is offering more activities to fully engage students, families, and staff than ever before.
“In any partnership, it’s vital to align the school’s core values with the CBO’s mission/vision statements. In working alongside Principal Jabouin and the P.S. 9 administrative team, as well as with Replications, Inc, we want to make sure that the process is seamless with a clear direction on how we’re driving these efforts,” says Cruz.
Cruz has taken a leadership role in organization staff team building activities, as well as school-wide celebrations that are led by members of the school community. For the Chinese New Year, P.S.9 Occupational Therapist Ms. Chihfen Lee served as the cultural ambassador, and for Black History Month, activity planning was led by school librarian Ms. Catherine Nettey-Tamakloe. For each celebration, the cultural ambassador leads a planning committee that is representative of both the culture and the various community stakeholders.
“Culture and representation matter. At our school, we believe in holistically addressing all cultures and ethnicities. It’s about exposure, understanding, and the human experience,” says Principal Jabouin. “Whether there’s one student, five hundred students, or even zero students from a particular culture, that culture will be represented at P.S.9.”
“We make sure all of our cultural events are an immersive, five senses experience. Classes read culturally relevant books and we seamlessly incorporate supplemental cultural curriculum materials that tie into each cultural event,” says Principal Jabouin. “The library carefully curates literary collections for each event. This makes the culminating celebrations more meaningful to the students, as they also compete in door decorating contests, enjoy cultural food dishes, and participate in a culminating school-wide celebration.”
These culminating celebrations have included a Lion Dance Parade, complete with traditional costumes from the Chinese Cultural Center in Queens, and a Black History Month assembly that included traditional African drumming led by teacher Mr. Daniel Fairfax and an African Diaspora fashion show led by Ms. Nettey-Tamakloe and her dedicated committee members.
In just four short months on site, Cruz has collaborated with Principal Jabouin to create a vibrant community school that is already a showcase for best practices, but they are only just getting started.
Cruz has organized monthly breakfasts for staff and for families, giving these important stakeholders an opportunity to interact with school and CBO leadership. Programs for students continue to expand, with dance and music programs targeting different grade levels. As part of his CBO’s commitment to improving attendance, Cruz leads a team of four success mentors that each carry a caseload of students and families, allowing for targeted intervention with a personal touch.
Mr. Cruz is particularly proud of the new SteamWorks Robotics program that Replications has funded. “I come from the after-school world, so I know how these alternative opportunities to learn holistically can have a meaningful impact. The students’ enthusiasm for the robotics program has been overwhelming. Their faces glow when it’s the time for the program every Wednesday, and it’s gratifying to see students fully engaging in the sciences through SteamWorks.”
Because of this program’s popularity, Cruz is adding more Expanded Learning Time opportunities, such as Chess NY and Leverage Consultant Services (dance, percussion, and vocals.)
“P.S. 9 will be fully transformed into a fully functional Community School Model Program,” says Cruz. “The school will look uniquely different with the signage and branding we plan to execute over this summer. We will offer parent support, student programming and support services for all of the families and guardians who are in need.”
Attendees of the Fordham CSTAC NYC Regional Conference on Thursday, May 18, will have an opportunity to tour P.S.9 and see their community school strategies in action.
Check out more of P.S. 9’s pictures below!