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Wealthy Park Slope School Donates Supplies to Brownsville's P.S. 446

By Leslie Albrecht | November 5, 2015 12:11pm
 P.S. 321 on a first day of school.
P.S. 321 on a first day of school.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

PARK SLOPE — A school where the PTA takes in more than $1 million a year is sharing some of its good fortune with a needy school in another neighborhood.

P.S. 321 on Seventh Avenue and First Street recently donated 204 boxes of new school supplies to P.S. 446 in Brownsville, said P.S. 446 principal Meghan Dunn.

Dunn said she jumped at the opportunity when P.S. 321 principal Liz Phillips suggested the idea of P.S. 321 parents lending a helping hand to P.S. 446.

“Liz reached out to me saying this was something her parents and community wanted to do," Dunn said. "I said it sounded great. [P.S. 321] parents really wanted to make sure they were contributing back to the Brooklyn community at large."

Fourth- and fifth-grade parents at P.S. 321 order classroom supplies for their school from an online vendor, and this year parents had the option to throw in an extra $20 to buy a box of supplies for P.S. 446. Parents donated enough for 204 boxes, or 70 percent of P.S. 446's student body, according to P.S. 321 leaders.

P.S. 321's PTA declined to comment on the donation.

Dunn said her teachers were "ecstatic" when a truck loaded with supplies pulled up three days before school started. The donated goods included "anything that kids and teachers need" from notebooks to loose-leaf paper to crayons. The boxes even contained two favorite supplies for teachers — tissues and paper towels, Dunn said.

"They were just really thankful for the support," Dunn said of P.S. 446 teachers. "It’s really great for teachers to feel like they have a connection to other schools."

Teachers at P.S. 446 often spend their own money on supplies and pay out of their own pockets for books or field trips they think their students would like, Dunn said. The expenses add up quickly. Dunn said her teachers each spend about $300 or $400 a year on those costs.

Though they're in different neighborhoods, P.S. 446 and P.S. 321 have a history of working together. The two schools are "learning partners," which means they collaborate and share ideas about what works and doesn't in their schools.

Schools chancellor Carmen Fariña recently pointed to such resource-sharing as one way to address disparities in income and race between schools.

The differences are stark between P.S. 446 and P.S. 321.

At the Brownsville school, 87 percent of students come from households living in poverty, according to the Department of Education. The DOE measures poverty based on whether a student qualifies for either free or reduced price lunch or qualifies for public benefits such as food stamps. At P.S. 321, 7.5 percent of students live in poverty.

In the 2014-15 school year, P.S. 446's student body was 77 percent black, 17 percent Latino and 1 percent white, according to the DOE. P.S. 321 was 75 percent white, 8 percent Latino and 5 percent black.

P.S. 446 is a Title 1 school, which means it qualifies for federal funds to improve academic performance among its many low-income students. P.S 321 was once a Title 1 school, but it has changed dramatically as Park Slope has become wealthier. The P.S. 321 PTA took in $1,089,929 in revenue in the 2012-13 school year, the last period for which public records were available.