Astoria School Symposium- Community informing itself about educational choices

The Second Annual Astoria School Symposium is scheduled for Saturday, January 12, 2013. It is an opportunity for schools and community members to share information about nursery, preschool, and elementary educational opportunities in Astoria.  The Symposium will consist of two components-  a fair and a series of forums.  At the fair, school representatives will have an opportunity to staff a booth to answer questions from families learning about that school.  At the forum parents who have undergone the admission process will review with families the admission process for Astoria nurseries, preschools (including UPK), and kindergarten.  There will also be special topic forum addressing Special Education and gifted and talented programs.

The Astoria School Symposium developed organically from a group of mothers, members of the Astoria Moms Meetup Group, who found themselves overwhelmed with seeking out the best educational opportunities for their children.  Mothers expressed feeling that the process to find out information about schools seemed very mysterious.  Sarah Espanol, an Astoria mother and special education teacher, started a few years ago hosting playgroups in her home where she shared with her mom friends the kindergarten process she underwent with her first child..  Sarah recalls “my living room was packed.  A year later we met in a church basement- and over 40 women attended.  It was clear that there was a great community need.”  In 2012 a group of mothers from the Astoria Moms group and the Queens Holistic Moms group joined forces and organized the first symposium.  Over 30 Astoria mothers came out to organize the event and over 150 parents came out seeking information about their local schools.  The result was a robust exchange of information.

Nina Maron, an Astoria mom of 2 boys remarked “Last year’s symposium was an excellent way of getting one stop shopping about Astoria schools from a variety of sources.  I didn’t realize there would be so many representatives talking about their schools and it saved me time.”  Parents also choose to go to the symposium because they want to connect with parents who have already gone through the admission process.   Kaitlin McGreyes, organizer for the Queens Holistic Moms Network and a mother of a young infant, feels she has to start the information gathering process early because “we have to decide between public school and private school and home schooling.  We have to decide if we we want to move out of New York City and move to the suburbs.  We have so many questions and this event gives me a great opportunity to start collecting information, finding out questions I need to ask, and make connections with local parents that are facing the same daunting task as me.”

Schools also find the School Symposium is important to attend.  Private schools can recruit new families and explain their educational philosophies.  Public schools can also do a lot to inform families and promote their school image.  Peter Calma, a parent who represented PS 84 at last year’s symposium commented, “When I realized what was being organized I knew it was important to represent my school because I believe that the public school system needs more parental involvement.  I want to recruit parents to stay in their zoned schools and to roll up their sleeves with me to work at making our schools better.”

The Symposium this year hopes to be as successful as last year.  The organizers hope that the symposium will give families an opportunity to learn about their local schools and that from this conversation between parents and schools can create more opportunities for improving the Astoria educational opportunities.    Siveem El-Nashar, Co-Director of Astoria School Symposium and Organizer for the Astoria Moms Meetup Group, hopes that not only [her] children but all children of Astoria have quality choice in education based on their individual needs irrespective of which side of town they are living.

For more information about the Astoria School Symposium:
The Astoria School Symposium
Saturday, January 12, 2013 from 9am- 1:00 p.m.
at Astoria Lutheran School
31-20 21st Avenue
Astoria, NY 11105

Fair:  School basement ongoing from 9-1
Forum Topics: 9:00 a.m Nurseries/Daycares, Preschool, Universal Pre-Kindergarten,  10:00 a.m.  Kindergarten process, 11:00 a.m.  Private School Process,  12:00 p.m.  Gifted & Talented  12:00 p.m.  Special Education (incl assessment)

Schools may register to be represented at the fair you may register by emailing or calling us at 347-94-MAMAS (347-946-2627 ).  No registration fee is required for schools to participate.

Parents may register to attend the Symposium at

If you are not from Astoria but are interested in having a similar symposium in your community. Feel free to contact the organizers for tips on how to get started in your community.

written by:  Margarita Soto, Co-Director of the Second Annual Astoria School Symposium and Astoria mother of three children.