In this video post, May Wong Lee shares two collections of remembrances about attending Public School 42 in the 1960s and 1970s, especially beloved traditions they had back then– namely, crab soccer, the knish man, and pickles. In the second video, she discusses some of the pedagogical styles and teachers who made the most difference in helping her succeed. She currently serves as Assistant Principal there.
Public School 42, on the corner of Hester and Orchard Streets, was built in 1898. It eventually got named the Benjamin Altman School, after the department store owner whose first store was located nearby, on Attorney Street. (The B. Altman’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue opened in 1906, and the building currently houses the City University of New York Graduate Center, Oxford University Press, and the New York Public Library science research collection.) The school serves around 800 students, from pre-kindergarten through grade 5. These students are over 92% Asian, around 5% African American, 2% Latino, and the remaining students white.
According to both parents’ comments and Department of Education reports, the teachers and staff do a good job at making the school a welcoming community for students and parents. The outcomes are pretty impressive, with very high attendance rates and scores in the top 15% citywide, even as over 90% of the children come from low-income families and are eligible for free or reduced school lunch. Almost 40% of the students are English-language learners.