Hashtags and ‘likes’ help P.S. 154 reach community 

Photo by Phonz L. Reyes. An activity at P.S. 154 promoted by the school’s Instagram page.

Antisa Ramos, 34, entered the library at P.S. 154 Johnathan D. Hyatt Elementary School on a Thursday morning in October to attend a monthly parent breakfast workshop. The meeting was scheduled to strategize on ways to reenergize parental reading interest, as had already been promoted on the school’s Instagram account had already promoted.

“I be on there everyday, to be honest,” said Ramos while grabbing a breakfast sandwich. “A lot of schools don’t post and parents miss flyers. On there, you see everything.” 

The community school at 333 East 135th Street in Port Morris has been relying on the popular social media app to engage and inform its nearly 290 followers since creating it in September 2017. The @p.s.154 Instagram page is currently maintained by the school’s Community School Director, Hady Mendez. 

Although the school does not have a website, staff is working on creating one to work in conjunction with the Instagram account and share followers. 

“It’s another vehicle we could use to communicate with our families,” said Mendez. The page promotes the school with photos from student activities such as class field trips, not only for students and their parents, but for local residents at large as well.  

The Instagram account has been “a really fun way” to “share information and showcase the amazing things happening here,” with the community at large, said Bethany Poolman, P.S. 154’s assistant principal.

Recent events have included a men’s group to discuss fatherhood and sustaining healthy relationships, G.E.D and English class registration sessions, and an open house to prepare 5th graders and their parents transitioning to middle school. They’ve also held a book club that promoted a children’s book written by a parent at the school. 

“It really has kind of taken a life of its own because a lot of people see themselves as owners of the space,” said Mendez.

Some followers say that they’ve been inspired by the way the school uses social media even if they have no other connection to the school. 

“I am not a parent of the school, but I learn a lot from their initiative for my work on family engagement,” said Vanessa Villafuerte, an Instagram user who follows the page from out of state. 

Still, most of the followers are parents who enjoy seeing the school’s activities in their feed. 

“It’s a good feeling when something from the school pops up,” said Hope Bell, 46. “They’re meeting me where I’m at. It keeps me involved and engaged with what’s happening at the school.”  

“There are some people that have negative things to say about public schools,” said Shaniqua Dunne, 40, PTA president and mother to a third grader. 

P.S. 154 is one of six Bronx schools that was enrolled in the city’s Rise program, meaning that the administration was required to raise students’ grades. Because the school’s proficiency scores have improved since it entered that program, P.S. 154 has been moved out of the Rise program and into another city educational initiative, the Renewal School program, in which schools are coupled with community organizations to further improve student performance.

Although community residents not connected with the school can still benefit from the Instagram page, parents are most excited at the way P.S. 154’s spirit of innovation has helped their children’s academic performance. 

“Since my daughter has been in this school I’ve seen the positive changes in the school and honestly I would not pick another school for my daughter,” said Dunne.