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Prospect Heights School Slated for Phase-Out Gets Photo Farewell

By Sonja Sharp | May 31, 2012 11:51am

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — It's a question Tiffany Bloomfield has asked dozens, if not hundreds of times — who inspires you?

But when the bubbly photographer was asked the same question, she clammed up. 

"I'm going to get in so much trouble," she said as she set her stub of chalk against the school slate that made up part of her exhibit Wednesday night at M.S. 571, a school deemed failing by the Department of Education and set to close next June. "I made them do it, and now I can't decide." 

Behind her were scores of pictures of students who make up the middle school's last two classes, each holding the name of someone—or in some cases, quite a few people—who inspire them. In front of her were many of the administrators, teachers and parents who hope to keep inspiring students in spite of their school's designation as a failure. 

"Just because the school's closing doesn't mean they've failed in any way," said Principal Santosha Troutman, who attended the event. "Despite the fact we're phasing out, they produced such wonderful work." 

It hasn't always been easy. Assistant Principal Ozella Prosper said she'd watched students struggle to adapt to sharing space with another school, Brooklyn East Collegiate, which will eventually grow to fill the space left behind by M.S. 571. (Both currently share the building on Underhill Avenue with P.S. 9.)

"These students that are here, when they see how another school is on our floor, they're offended," Prosper said. "We're on the same floor, but they won't even acknowledge our students. Our children feel like they think they're better than us."

Hence, the need for inspiration, Bloomfield said. 

"Seeing the schools closing, I felt like something needs to be done for the kids directly," she said. "I did the photo shoot to make the kids feel good." 

As for the inspirations, there were rules — it couldn't be a public figure like Dr. King or Kim Kardashian, and it couldn't be a teacher, because, in Bloomfield's words, it's "educators' job to inspire." Most kids picked family, a few themselves or their friends. 

Like many, eigth-grader Schlayna Vialva, 14, picked her grandmother. Seventh-grader Crystal Lopez, 13, picked her entire family. 

In the end, Bloomfield chose a friend she admired for her fearlessness. 

"She's inspirational in what she does in life," Bloomfield said. "I admire her attack."