Lenox, Plaza earn national honor

Each named School of Excellence for 2018-20


Lenox and Plaza elementary schools in Baldwin were each recently named a School of Excellence by the National Parent Teacher Association in recognition of the partnerships between the local PTAs and the schools.

Both schools will receive banners to celebrate the designation and consideration for the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Award — an honor that comes with national recognition and travel and tickets to the National PTA convention.

“Congratulations to Lenox and Plaza Elementary Schools for being recognized as a National PTA School of Excellence,” Dr. Shari Camhi, superintendent of the Baldwin School District, wrote in an email. “We are proud of all their hard work, collaboration and dedication to our Baldwin students and community and nurturing a successful partnership with our schools.”

Lenox and Plaza are two of 18 New York schools to earn the two-year honor, which was awarded to 278 schools nationwide. Schools can reapply for the distinction every one or two years. Baldwin Middle School and Meadow Elementary School were each a School of Excellence from 2016 to 2018, and Steele Elementary School was named one for 2015 to 2017.

Under the program, both PTAs have made a yearlong commitment to identify and implement new ways to improve their schools based on the National PTA’s standards — which include raising awareness of family and community involvement, cultivating involvement through specific programs and celebrating a school’s successes.

The National PTA is a nonprofit network of parents, students and teachers devoted to fostering better family engagement in school.

“The efforts of these PTAs and schools are making a positive impact on family engagement, student success and school improvement, and we are pleased to designate them as 2018-2020 Schools of Excellence,” Nathan Monell, executive director of the National PTA, said in a statement.

Mia Phillips, co-president of the Lenox Elementary School PTA, said she was very excited that the school was picked.

The PTA’s goal this year, Phillips said, is to make sure all parents feel as though they are part of the school. That mission started on Day One. “We had signs and picture frames out for people to take photos with,” she said. “Our new principal, Asheena Baez, was out there singing and dancing.”

The PTA’s future goals, Phillips said, include improving communication with parents. “We’re looking to embrace more social media,” she said, “and move away from paper fliers and more emails and texts for information.”

Christina Eckler, who served as Plaza’s PTA president from 2016 to 2018, said she almost didn’t apply for the distinction. “It was a lot of work, but in the end it’s worth it,” she said. It’s the second national honor for Plaza this year: In February, it was one of 65 schools in the country to be named a National School of Character for its dedication to developing students’ character.

Eckler said that both awards were the work of the PTA’s partnership with Principal Mark Gray. “This distinction, I think, was well-deserved and an example of how everyone works together,” she said. “It was a joint effort.”

Eckler said that the PTA works hard to include all parents, and provides interpreter services at its meetings when needed. “We’ll also have signs on the door that say everyone is welcomed,” she said. “It’s a family. We all help out each other.”