PS/IS 499 gets new tech lab from $200K Gennaro grant

City Councilman James Gennaro speaks to students at PS/IS 499 about the importance of education. Photo courtesy Gennaro's office
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A Flushing school cut the ribbon on new equipment last week, allowing the Queens College School of Math, Science and Technology to live up to its name.

The upgrade came in the form of a new media lab at PS/IS 499, at 148-20 Reeves Ave., which will give youngsters access to better technology to enhance their learning.

“We are thrilled,” said Principal Helene Jacob. “Everybody is just thrilled.”

The $200,000 for the new gear, which included laptop and desktop computers, a server and interactive white boards that act almost as a chalkboard-sized digital canvas, was provided through the office of City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows).

“I think talent plus tools equals success,” Gennaro told a group of students Friday afternoon. “You never know where life is going to take you, but if you use your talent to the best of your ability and really believe in yourself, you can make amazing things happen.”

The new computers and SMART boards in the media lab, where students can perform research and learn about technology, will replace the aging and sometimes sluggish devices the students learned with before, according to Jacob.

And the SMART boards in nine classrooms throughout the schools and additional laptops will allow teachers to more easily integrate multimedia into their instruction instead of laboring over the copy machine or making archaic transparencies.

If a school principal wants an upgrade to a computer lab or a library, he or she must apply for what is known as a Reso A grant.

The grants are doled out by area Council members — in this case Gennaro — after educators write a letter to the lawmakers describing the situation in their school and the upgrades they would like.

A template of the letter is available on the city Department of Education website.

In the generic template, the politician is praised before the state of the school is described.

“You have been extremely instrumental in supporting PS ___,” the letter reads, reserving space to plug in the specific school.

Advice is also offered in parentheses.

“Because of the ever-changing demands and the increased need to integrate technology with the New York state and New York City standards, we are requesting $200,000 (always ask for more) to install a State of the Art Mac or PC Lab (whichever platform your school uses) and update existing hardware and software,” the template read.

But Gennaro said that his office does outreach to every school in his district to find out the needs of each school and the last time they received Reso A funding.

“My office chooses to do the outreach,” he said. “I don’t want to run the risk of leaving out students and their needs just because their principal didn’t affirmatively reach out to me.”

In the 2011 fiscal year, more than 180 Queens schools received Reso A grants that ranged from tens of thousands of dollars to more than $1 million, according to a Reso A allocation document from the DOE. The grants helped to upgrade computer labs, science labs, libraries, auditorium and gym improvements and a host of other projects.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-0260-4566.

Updated 8:55 am, January 30, 2012
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