PS 29 on Henry between Kane and Baltic Streets has long been known as one of NYC's best elementaries.
Photo by Joshua Kristal
Cobble Hill’s PS 29 principal, Melanie Raneri Woods, announced on Monday evening that she is retiring at the end of the summer after 10 years at the public elementary school known as one of the best in the city.
Woods sent word to the parent community through email. The highly-respected and admired principal explained that her husband retired years ago and has been waiting for her to join him. The news came hard to parents, who have faced a series of challenges in recent years and have come to rely on Woods to guide the school when choppy waters kick up.
Woods is known for her striking problem-solving abilities, her strong support for PS 29’s healthy food initiative in the cafeteria and its food garden, as well as for progressive educational policies. This September, when the number of kindergartners caused crowding, Woods found a way to secure funding to create an extra class after school started (each class had a teacher’s aid thanks to fast summer fundraising by parents and the PTA). Last year, when construction on the new schoolyard closed it down, Woods worked with the 76th Precinct to close off surrounding streets so kids could play outdoors.
Parents Rhonda Keyser, Mónica Gutiérrez-Kirwan, Belén García and Jessica Delaney show up last Friday with hundreds of parents in pink and red to surprise teachers with a show of support–a sort of colorful standing ovation. A teacher ‘Thank You’ mural from kids was placed at the entrance of the school.
Parents were hoping for similar magic after, just two weeks ago, city workers put scaffolding all around the school and in a section of the new play-yard in order to replace a leaky roof. The scaffolding will remain for a year, according to the city, and parents are concerned about the effect the construction project will have on students. The scaffolding sadly quashes the school’s new raised-bed food garden, which ran along Kane St. in the school yard.
The loss of such a strong leader is the latest in difficult news for PS 29’s community. In 2008 the school faced terrible tragedy, when a fourth-grade boy was killed when he was hit by a truck when riding bicycles with his father, crossing the street in a cross walk on Livingston St. and Boerum Place. In October of 2010, the school’s beloved cafeteria chef died of a health condition.
And then in 2011, newspapers went wild with the story of Providence Hogan, the PS 29 PTA Treasurer who was convicted of stealing $82,000 from the PTA over four years, a great embarrassment to the school’s almost super-human PTA, which raises money for a great number of music, art and enrichment programs at the school. To ad insult to injury, in late summer, a group of teens from the exclusive Brooklyn Heights’ Saint Ann’s private school set fire to the school’s brand new playground equipment in a You Tube stunt gone awry. Little children were freaked out by the incident, wondering why large kids would set their play area on fire.
But Tuesday, spirits at the school remained high. The remarkable calm, clean and happy hallways of the school buzzed as parents dropped off children. Little feet ran into classrooms, oblivious of the world outside. Parents remained hopeful that Woods would help the city pick a worthy replacement. Certainly, she’s leaving a quality institution with a remarkable parent-support network, and the job is certain to attract quality candidates.