Fresh Meadows school renamed for late principal

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Administrators at Fresh Meadows' PS 177 said the rainy weather last Friday afternoon meant that the school's late principal was looking down as they renamed the building in her honor.

The facade now says in blue letters "The Robin Sue Ward School for Exceptional Children" above the main entrance on 188th Street. Ward's friends, colleagues and family entered the school under her name to attend the official ceremony in the auditorium, where a video unveiling had to stand in for doing so in person outdoors.

"Rain brings luck," said Kathy Posa, PS 177's principal, putting a brave face on the soggy weather as she began her tribute to Ward, who died last year of multiple sclerosis. "The school has come a long way due to her, and Robin would have it no other way."

The school opened its doors in 1981 to special needs students with Ward as its principal and a host of unwelcoming neighbors peeking out from behind their curtains as the staff unloaded desks, said Bonnie Brown, superintendent of District 75, the city Department of Education's citywide designation for similar schools and programs.

"Robin never made excuses or apologies for her passion," she said. Her influence in the school and in the DOE was such that people referred to PS 177 as "Robin's school," so the name change merely makes it official, Brown said.

Many of the speakers referenced Langston Hughes' poem "Dream Deferred" as they spoke about Ward. Her husband, Dr. Stephen Ward, mentioned it when talking about his late wife's modesty and her dreams for her students.

"Robin Sue had many dreams, of getting married, of raising a family. Robin also had a dream that the children in these classrooms would be able to fulfill their dreams," he said. "And this modest, unassuming woman dreamed that one day this edifice would bear her name."

The decision was unanimously approved by the city, he said.

"Thank you for making this a reality, for not allowing it to dry up like a raisin in the sun," he said before the video screen behind him on the stage displayed a photo of the school's facade with his late wife's name.

There was a standing ovation in the packed auditorium, and tears of happiness fell indoors, mirroring the rain outside that Posa said showed that Robin Sue Ward was watching.

Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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Reader feedback

Teri Carlson from Fresh Meadows says:
Let's not forget that P.S. 177Q was the "William Prince School" from 1951 - 1981, one of the highest rated elementary schools in New York City. It's a shame the writer of this article failed to mention the proud history of a school which once served all the children in our community.
Sept. 30, 2013, 1:55 pm
Walt Jacobson from Fresh Meadows says:
Correct. And the William Prince School was closed to "save money" and it was replaced with a special needs population requiring special transportation services, special education teachers, and a low ratio of teachers to students. So in the end, no money was saved by closing the William Prince School.
Nov. 18, 2013, 12:50 pm
Elise Simpkin from Fresh Meadows says:
Just drive by on any school day -- you will see the entire area filled with vans shuttling kids between home and the school. My children walked to the William Prince School.
The shutdown of the school was done in the "dark of night" and when the community found out about the city's scheme, it was too late.
Dec. 29, 2013, 9:26 am
Esther Sadowsky from NYC says:
I attended PS 177 from 1957-1963. My brother & I walked to school from our garden apt. on Utopia Pkwy. My fondest memories are of my 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Grace Racker for whom I still hold in high esteem. Many teachers have come & gone since then, but when an outstanding one comes along, it stays with you. I got a wonderful education at PS 177 way before it became an elite school educating special needs children. All I know is all children should be treated special & I always was at PS 177.
March 7, 2014, 6:14 pm
Walt Jacobson from Fresh Meadows says:
It would be very interesting to find out what happened to all the momentos, photos, trophies and other and special items from the thirty years of P.S. 177Q. Were they whisked away into a NYC Board of Ed vault somewhere? I distinctly remember there was a girl in my son's class who passed away in the early 1970s ... and there was a beautiful portrait dedicated to her across from the main office.
Dec. 23, 2014, 8:44 am
Sylvia Klein from formerly Fresh Meadows says:
My two children attended the William Prince School from 1960-1972. It was a wonderful school. School testing scores were consistently among the top 5 schools in all of New York City. I have fond memories of the outstanding teachers and principals and their love of teaching. The closing of P.S. 177Q was done very quickly, before the local civic associations knew what was happening. It was a very sad day for the community after 30 years.
Oct. 15, 2015, 11:34 am
Sy Bernstein from formerly Fresh Meadows says:
We lived on 190th Street near 53rd Avenue. My children attended PS 177Q in the 1960s, as did dozens of children in the surrounding blocks. 177 was a "foundation" for the neighborhood. Such dedicated teachers! It was an absolute crime in how that school was shut down to no longer serve the wider student population in our own neighborhood. And furthermore, I don't agree with the decision to rename the school which opened in 1951 as the "William Prince School"! But then again, no one asked the community what we wanted, did they?
Nov. 24, 2015, 2:48 pm
Robert from formerly Fresh Meadows says:
I attended P.S. 177 from 1968-1975. While it was a shame that the school ultimately closed, it was an inevitability. For years the enrollment was declining. By the time I started kindergarten in 1968, only one kindergarten classroom was in use- the other became a big storage room. And the year ahead of mine had 3 classes per grade. My grade had only 2 classes to a grade, and there were lots of empty rooms that the administration tried to hide by making them "the math lab" which nobody attended, the music room- unattended, a storage room etc. Don't blame the city- it became economically unviable for the Board of Ed to maintain a half empty school. And, as I recall in June 1975, P.S. 179 The Lewis Carroll School closed. For my perspective, I am pleased that the school that I went to is being fully utilized - so much so that modular classrooms had to be built to accommodate the enrollment. I too am curious as to where all of the mementos, plaques, awards etc. went. I always assumed that they were discarded, but it's certainly something that I hope the Times Ledger could look into. That would be a great cover story. And regarding the portrait of the young girl who passed away- she was my neighbor. She suffered a cerebral hemorrhage when she was in the 4th grade in the spring of 1972. Her first name was Stephanie, and she was the nicest, sweetest person- an angel. I remember that all of the students were asked to make a contribution for the portrait. I hope her family has possession of the portrait.
Jan. 1, 1:26 am
Ina Smith from Jamacia, Queens says:
I was bussed in from Jamacia, Queens with a large number of other students during the 60’s and early 70’s from the 1st grade to 6th grade. Back then, there was only one class for the disabled, I know because my brother was a part of that class. He didn’t like it. I think it had to do with being around the mentally retarded (that was the term used back then) when he was only legally blind. Nothing was wrong with his brain yet he was treated as if he was incapable. I understand, back then the school system wasn’t equipped and had very little knowledge how to approach the disabled. Today, my brother graduated from an Ivy League Unversity at the top of his class. Myself, on the other hand, had a very difficult time learning math, English and reading when I attended PS 177Q, I also had a speech impairment. It was until the 5th grade when everything clicked. Mr. Bozanna was one of the best teachers I ever had, he was my teacher from the 5th grade and 6th grade. He never gave up on me. Between Mr. Bozanna and my father, I went off to college and graduated. I’m sure back then a lot of children with a learning disabilities were left behind. He treated me like a father treats his daughter, with love, patience and understanding. If I never see him again or hear from him, I’m ok. When I graduated from the 6th grade he wrote in my autograph book, “Ina, we had our ups and downs but on a whole it was fine” I will never forget those words.
Feb. 24, 10:14 am
Sylvia Klein from formerly Fresh Meadows says:
There were plenty of underutilized schools in the city at that time. And everyone knows neighborhood demographics change, so it's quite possible that as new families moved into the surrounding neighborhoods, the school would have been fully utilized within a few years! I feel the school was specifically targeted by the city for closure because it was such a high performing school. Why was no notice provided to the community? Why were there no public meetings? I say this with a heavy heart, because when that school closed, the community lost a true gem. My grandchildren live on 192nd Street and they did not have the opportunity to attend a local school.
May 5, 8:09 pm

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