Some 300 children got a chance to see the animals perform at the UniverSoul Circus in St. Albans April 28, thanks to the efforts of their local City Councilman, James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton).
"We're just so proud of these kids," Sanders said. "We looked around and said, 'What do kids of all ages love?'"
Sanders rewarded PS 156 for being one of 24 schools statewide given a Pathfinder award for marked improvement in the reading and math scores of its fourth-graders. The award is presented by the Business Council of New York State, and PS 156 was recognized for increasing its reading scores by 28 percent and its math scores by 32 percent.
"These children have worked hard all year and strived for success," said second-grade teacher Rena Kantowitz at the circus, speaking not only of the fourth-grade test-takers but of all the school's students. "They earned this."
Kantowitz and other teachers attributed PS 156's success to motivated teachers and an inspirational administration, led by Principal Noreen Little and Assistant Principal Edna Loncke.
Because of ticket limitations, only certain classes from the school could attend the UniverSoul Circus at Roy Wilkins Park in St. Albans, but fifth-grade teacher Elizabeth Hargrove said the school was grateful to Sanders for his efforts.
"This really shows the kids as well that they're appreciated by the community," she said.
With help from Health First, a non-profit medical provider, Sanders procured 300 tickets at a value of $10 each for kids from PS 156, MS 180 and PS 215. While MS 180 and PS 215 did not win a Pathfinder award, Sanders said the schools were among those in his district that had improved their overall academic performance, and he selected them to ensure all geographic areas in his constituency were recognized.
A black-owned and operated show, UniverSoul Circus features trained animals, acrobatics and dance routines, mostly set to a rousing hip-hop soundtrack.
Some of the circus performers put on a preview for the students during a visit to the school on April 23. At the April 28 performance, Kantowitz's second-graders said in unison after the show that it was "excellent."
"I think they really enjoyed themselves," said Sanders, who added further entertainment with a brief appearance as the circus ringmaster.
"I didn't want to get in the way of the show," Sanders said of his short-lived stint. During his tenure, he did, however, manage to turn the tables on a mischievous clown by bopping him on the head before the performer could do so to the councilman.
"I think a councilman is well-prepared to be in the circus," Sanders joked afterward. Asking his fellow legislators to take his comments in jest, he said he spends his day "in the lion's den" while getting "tigers to jump through hoops" and dealing with "clowns."
Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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