USA

What is Labor Day?

For most people in the United States, Memorial day marks the start of the summer with Labor Day marking its end. This holiday is a national holiday, which also means a day off for most employees.

However, Labor day is not just a reason for a day off. It is a day set aside to pay tribute to men and women who work. It has been celebrated officially in North America since 1894.

This holiday was originally created by labor unions who celebrated the first labor days back in the 19th century. Most historians credit Peter McGuire, who was general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, with the idea of a special day to honour workers.

Labor day parades occur across the United States and Canada with the first parade occurring on September 5th 1882 in New York City. Labor day is celebrated on the first Monday of September each year as this date is halfway between Independance Day and Thanksgiving.

Here at Expat US we hope you all have a great Labor day weekend and enjoy the last of the summer! 

School grade equivalents in the USA

Moving to a foreign country with your family is daunting enough without having to worry about which grade your child should attend once you have arrived in your new country.

Grade structures are different in France, the United Kingdom and the USA, which can lead to confusion as to which class you should apply for.

The following table will give you an idea of the school grade equivalents in different countries and help you better understand the American system.

Expat US offers comprehensive school search assistance which includes an overview of private and public school options as well as assistance registering your children in their new school. If you are relocating to the USA with your children, Expat US may be able to help you.

Columbus Day: Celebration of the first European to expatriate to the Americas.

Columbus Day originated as a celebration of Italian-American heritage and was first held in San Francisco in 1869. The first state-wide celebration was held in Colorado in 1907. In 1937, Columbus Day become a holiday across the United States.

Since 1971, it has been celebrated on the second Monday in October. This date, which represents the day that Columbus arrived in the Americas is also celebrated as the Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) in Latin America and some Latino communities in the USA. However, it is a controversial holiday in some countries and has been re-named in others.

Here are 10 fun facts about the sailor who remains “the discoverer of the Americas”:

1. Columbus did not set out to prove the earth was round.
Contrary to popular belief by 1492 most educated people knew that the world was round, but they did not yet know that the Pacific Ocean existed. As a result, Columbus and his contemporaries assumed that only the Atlantic lay between Europe and the riches of the East Indies.

2. Christopher Columbus was not the first European to cross the Atlantic.
Leif Eriksson, a Norse Viking, is believed to have landed in present-day Newfoundland around 1000 A.D., almost five centuries before Columbus set sail. If we go further back, some historians even claim that Ireland’s Saint Brendan or other Celtic people crossed the Atlantic before Eriksson.

3. Three countries refused to finance Columbus’ voyage.
Portugal, England and France refused to finance Columbus’ quest to discover a western sea route to Asia. According to the royal advisors, his calculations were wrong and the journey would take much longer than he thought. In Spain similar concerns were raised to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Advisors were right, Christopher Columbus underestimated the earth’s circumference and the size of the oceans. That’s why (luckily for him and his crew) he ran into the uncharted Americas.

4. Columbus’ had several ships but Nina and Pinta were not the real names.
In 15th-century Spain, ships were traditionally named after saints. However, one of the three ships on Columbus’ 1492 voyage was dubbed the Pinta, Spanish for “the painted one” or “prostitute.” The Santa Clara, was nicknamed the Nina in honor of its owner, Juan Nino. Finally, the Santa Maria is called by its official name, even if its nickname was La Gallega, after the province of Galicia in which it was built.

5. The Santa Maria was wrecked on Columbus’ historic voyage.
On Christmas Eve of 1492, the ship ran into a coral reef on the northern coast of Hispaniola, near present-day Cap Haitien, Haiti. The whole crew spent Christmas night salvaging the Santa Maria. Columbus returned to Spain aboard the Nina, but he had to leave nearly 40 crewmembers behind to start the first European settlement in the Americas (La Navidad).
Sadly, when Columbus returned to the settlement in the fall of 1493, none of the crew were found alive.

6. Columbus made four voyages to the New World.
Although best known for his historic 1492 expedition, Columbus returned to the Americas three more times in the following decade. His voyages took him to Caribbean islands, South America and Central America.

7. Columbus returned to Spain in chains in 1500.
Columbus’s governance of Hispaniola could be brutal and tyrannical. Native islanders who did not collect enough gold could have their hands cut off, and rebel Spanish colonists were executed at the gallows. Colonists complained to the monarchy about mismanagement and a royal commissioner dispatched to Hispaniola arrested Columbus in August 1500 and brought him back to Spain in chains. Although Columbus was stripped of his governorship, King Ferdinand not only granted the explorer his freedom but subsidized a fourth voyage.

8. Tintin and Christopher Columbus both used a lunar eclipse as their “savior”
In February 1504, Christopher Columbus was stranded in Jamaica, abandoned by half his crew and denied food by the islanders. Once again, the heavens that he relied on for navigation, would save him. Knowing from his almanac that a lunar eclipse was coming on February 29, 1504, Columbus warned the islanders that his god was upset with their refusal of food and that the moon would “rise inflamed with wrath” as an expression of divine displeasure. On the appointed night, the eclipse darkened the moon and turned it red, and the terrified islanders offered provisions and beseeched Columbus to ask his god for mercy. A tintin story was inspired by this.

9. Columbus continued to cross the Atlantic after his death.
Following his death in 1506, Columbus was buried in Valladolid, Spain, and then moved to Seville. At the request of his daughter-in-law, the bodies of Columbus and his son Diego were shipped across the Atlantic to Hispaniola and interred in a Santo Domingo cathedral. When the French captured the island in 1795, the Spanish dug up remains thought to be those of the explorer and moved them to Cuba before returning them to Seville after the Spanish-American War in 1898. However, a box with human remains and the explorer’s name was discovered inside the Santo Domingo cathedral in 1877. Did the Spaniards exhume the wrong body? DNA testing in 2006 found evidence that at least some of the remains in Seville are those of Columbus. The Dominican Republic has refused to let the other remains be tested. It could be possible that pieces of Columbus are both in the New World and the Old World.

10. Legacy: Heirs of Columbus and the Spanish monarchy were in litigation until 1790.
After the death of Columbus, his heirs waged a lengthy legal battle with the Spanish crown, claiming that the monarchy short-changed them on money and profits that were owed to the explorer. Most of the Columbus lawsuits were settled by 1536, but the legal proceedings nearly dragged on until the 300th anniversary of Columbus’ famous voyage.

If, like Colombus, you are thinking about crossing the Atlantic to relocate to the U.S., be sure to use Expat US relocation services for all your needs.

 

How to compare cities and neighborhoods in the USA?

We will show you how to compare the different US cities. 

When you try to find the place that suits you the most, it is necessary to compare cities and neighborhoods. For instance, you usually try out before you decide. So before you start planning your move you must compare.

Here are some tools to know more about the city you choose:

 

Overall Comparison

For an overview you can use Sperling's Best Places. An interesting read with some very solid facts and the possibility to compare two cities.

 

Crime Rates

On AreaConnect.com you have an easy and quick way to compare crime rates of two cities. You have also a comparison with the national statistics.

 

Neighborhood Comparison

You are looking at neighborhood options in a city that you don’t know and without actually going there?

Neighborhood Scout provides an overview of the neighborhood. You can compare where you currently live to another neighborhood. You can use it to find a similar neighborhood to the one you're living in or, check where the highest crimes rates are or where the best schools are located.

Area Vibes This tool will provide information on education, jobs, crimes, housing, weather. With this tool you will be able to see a map with all the local amenities for any particular address.

Walk Score This one will focus on the total area “walkable”. You can take a look at your environment and get information on amenities.

 

Cost of Living and Salary Comparison

Sperling's is also a tool for comparing salaries and cost of living. This tool provides stats on food, housing, utilities, transportation and more. Great way to find out if your salary will measure up in the new city.

 

 Compare Schools

GreatSchools.net lists schools in the city of your choice, providing extensive statistics on test scores and teacher and student ratios, including teacher's experience.You can also compare two schools to help you in your choice.

 

How to evaluate and choose public schools in New York ?

Moving to a particular neighborhood in order to land a seat at a coveted public school has long been the middle-class modus operandi for obtaining a high-quality education in New York, where placement in many elementary schools is determined by home address.

But navigating school zones has become much trickier in the past few years as more families with young children put down roots in the city. Even living two blocks from a well-regarded public school no longer means your child will get in, and with many neighborhoods becoming increasingly expensive, it isn’t always possible to squeeze into a smaller apartment.

In November the attendance boundaries for Public Schools 321 and 107 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, were redrawn to relieve overcrowding, which was bad luck for families who had bought their homes specifically because of those schools and suddenly found themselves zoned for another.

Even without rezoning, families living in districts with overcrowded schools may find their best-laid plans upended. Last month, more than 2,300 children, or roughly 3 percent of applicants, were put on waiting lists for kindergarten seats at 105 schools, according to the Department of Education. Although the overall number of children on waiting lists is down slightly from last year, waiting lists at some schools soared.

The waiting list at P. S. 41 in Greenwich Village had 100 students, up from 55 last year, and the one at P. S. 307 in Queens had 167, up from 109. Many children on waiting lists end up securing spots as families of enrolled children pursue other options: moving away; placing their children in private schools or gifted-and-talented programs; or winning lotteries for charter-school admission.

But the wait to find out can be excruciating. By the end of June, those who remain on a waiting list will receive an offer of an alternative school.

All of this is forcing families to consider new ways to navigate the city school system. Some do school research even before a child is born. Other parents pay specialists to help identify neighborhoods with up-and-coming schools, the hope being that if they move to these places now, the school will have improved by the time their child reaches kindergarten.

Still others rent a home in a top school zone. Then, if they find themselves priced out when it comes time to buy an apartment, they’ll move to a more affordable neighborhood. The child will be able to stay put, schoolwise, because city policy is basically “once you’re in, you’re in.”

There have always been people who outright lie by borrowing an address from a friend or relative to get their children into a school. If caught, however, those students will lose their seats.

 Sure, it’s easy to mock the neuroses of New York City parents when it comes to their offspring, as films and documentaries have done. But the city poses unique challenges, and as a result, more families are thinking earlier about where they want to live in relation to what it means for their children’s education.

“Anyone who thinks it through realizes you can’t count on one option,” said Christine Dirringer, a commodities banker who, with her partner, Keith Richards, also a commodities banker, is selling an Upper West Side two-bedroom and looking for a town house in Carroll Gardens or Park Slope. The reasoning: Both areas have good public and private school options and offer more space for the money.

Chloe, their daughter, hasn’t celebrated her first birthday yet.

“It’s crazy to be considering schools when she’s only 7 months old,” Ms. Dirringer said. “But I’d rather have a plan, knowing how difficult it can be to get in.”

Here are some of the ways families with young children are approaching the complicated calculus of real estate and education in the city.

Renting in a Good School Zone

Renting or buying in a given school zone may be the most straightforward strategy for getting into a popular public school. But neighborhoods with coveted public schools tend to be pricey. The good news is if you can’t afford to stay, your children don’t have to switch schools.

They have the right to remain in the same public school until graduation, regardless of where in the city the family lives after registration day, according to the Department of Education. The idea behind this longstanding regulation is to offer stability to children.

“Continuity and stability help teachers and schools tailor instruction for the needs of each child over the long term,” Devon Puglia, a spokesman for the Education Department, wrote in an e-mail. “When students jump from school to school either midyear or between grades, personalization is difficult.”

Some parents in overcrowded schools bristle at families who take advantage of the rule with no intention of staying in the neighborhood. But the Education Department does not track the movement of families after enrollment. And families who end up leaving the zone often would prefer to stay but can’t for financial reasons.

When Sundus Kubba moved from Ann Arbor, Mich., to take an investment banking job in New York four years ago, she and her husband, Joe Kazemi, a graduate student and independent statistician, searched for a rental that would put their daughter, Maya, within the zone for the highly sought-after P. S. 87 on the Upper West Side. 

 “We had to be very specific with addresses — what side of a street an apartment was on,” Mr. Kazemi recalled.

The couple rented a two-bedroom on the second floor of a walk-up two blocks from P. S. 87. In 2011, Maya began kindergarten at the school, which offers a dual-language program of English and Spanish and runs through fifth grade.

This year, with Maya in first grade, the family searched for a place to buy in the neighborhood but found nothing they could afford. So with the help of Stefania Cardinali, a broker at Citi Habitats, they began looking in Harlem and Hamilton Heights.

 “We can get more for our money uptown,” said Mr. Kazemi, noting that the 15- to 25-minute subway commute wasn’t bad. Last month the couple went into contract on a two-bedroom two-bath apartment with a private rooftop cabana in a full-service building in Hamilton Heights for $680,000. A recent online search for a comparable place in the P. S. 87 zone found listings from $995,000 to $3.85 million.

Though school quality was a factor in their search, Mr. Kazemi added, the fact that Maya can remain at P. S. 87 is “fantastic for us.”

Now the family is zoned for P. S. 153, which has lower test scores than P. S. 87, but also has gifted-and-talented classes and language and art programs.

Find an Up-and-Coming School

School advisers say more parents are apartment-hunting in neighborhoods that offer promising schools with strong leadership and rising attendance rates, including Greenpoint and Windsor Terrace in Brooklyn, and parts of South Harlem, Inwood and Washington Heights in Manhattan.

For instance, respectable options like P. S. 180 in Harlem, which teaches prekindergarten through eighth grade, have remained under the radar mainly because they served a low-income community, said Clara Hemphill, the founder of Insideschools.org, a project of the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School that offers profiles of city schools.

 “It was always a terrific school with a terrific principal,” Ms. Hemphill said, “but its test scores reflected the fact that poor kids tend not to get a fancy preschool education.” P. S. 180’s attributes, she added, include small classes and active parents. “Now, we’re seeing more middle-class parents choosing it.”

Julianna LeMieux, an assistant professor of biology at Mercy College, visited schools in Washington Heights, Harlem and the Upper West Side last June in preparation for a move from Boston; her husband, Mark Emerson, had accepted a new job. “We were willing to do whatever it took to get our sons into a good school,” she said.

That included squeezing themselves and their boys, 6 and 2, into a one-bedroom on the Upper West Side if necessary. But after visiting P. S. 180 and being impressed by the small class sizes and the diversity of the student population, she narrowed her search to condos in that school’s zone.

There were five listings in the Harlem area within their budget. The couple bought a two-bedroom with one and a half baths and a washer/dryer, listed for $520,000. Their elder son, Isaiah, began kindergarten in September at P. S. 180. Ms. LeMieux says the principal greets students by name each morning at drop-off.

“It ended up being a great match,” she added. “I can see Morningside Park from our window and like being so close to Central Park.” The number of children they saw in the neighborhood when they moved in, she added, “really spoke to the fact that this is probably going to be a good place, a comfortable place to have for years.”

A Developing Neighborhood

Schools don’t always follow their neighborhood’s upward trajectory. “Every neighborhood is different,” said Joyce Szuflita, the founder of NYC School Help, which helps families find schools in Brooklyn, “but what I find is the gentrification of the school lags many years behind a gentrification of a neighborhood. People occasionally move in when they’re pregnant and say this neighborhood is awesome and diverse and rich, and then their kids get to be school age and they’re like, huh?”

Many of those families, she said, end up trying to “squeak into the schools” in better-established neighborhoods nearby.

But there is often another contingent — a core group of new families who are “drawn to a school that looks promising,” Ms. Szuflita said.

Kelly Bare, an editor at The New Yorker magazine, and her husband, Jonathan Cohen, the music booker for “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” traded a studio on the Lower East Side for a two-bedroom rental in Prospect Heights about five years ago. Schools weren’t the first thing on their minds.

“We were just trying to wrap our heads around being parents,” said Ms. Bare, who was pregnant with their first child at the time.

In search of more space and a family-friendly vibe, she said, they were attracted by the neighborhood’s good transportation, proximity to Prospect Park and cultural institutions like the Brooklyn Museum — not to mention the more affordable rents.

But soon, apartment prices began to climb, and they had been hoping to buy.

The couple decided to hunt on the edge of the neighborhood, on the border of Crown Heights, where they would be able to afford more space.

But the school situation was mixed. While Public Schools 9 and 316 in Prospect Heights were gaining attention, P. S. 22 in Crown Heights was underperforming. Enrollment dropped, test scores remained low, safety concerns were raised and teachers complained of unresponsive and demoralizing leadership.

Nevertheless, in 2010 Ms. Bare and Mr. Cohen took the leap and bought a new three-bedroom condo on the Crown Heights border for about $600,000.

“We knew we could not afford to buy that kind of space in a zone where the schools were already proven,” Ms. Bare said. “We took a calculated risk — buying an apartment that we loved, on the edge of a neighborhood that we loved, in an area we presumed would change fairly rapidly.”

Part of the plan was to get involved in a local school and “actively recruit like-minded families,” Ms. Bare said. But ultimately, “we kind of took a gamble that our trajectory would be the same as the school trajectory.”

Timing, it turned out, was on their side. The following year the city announced that it would phase out P. S. 22 and replace it with P. S. 705, also known as the Brooklyn Arts and Science Elementary School, which shares a new building with Exceed Charter School and currently teaches through third grade and offers dual-language immersion starting in prekindergarten, as well as art, music, dance and fencing.

“It’s like a little gem,” said Ms. Bare, who enrolled Drew, 5, her older child, in prekindergarten and plans to have her daughter, Lizzie, 2, follow in 2015.

Kelly Bare and her husband, Jonathan Cohen, live on the border of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, with Lizzie, 2, and Drew, 5. They are delighted with Public School 705.

Move to Afford Private School

The expense and competition involved in sending a child to a good private school in the city is monumental. But with no guarantee that their child will end up in a top-notch public school, some families are viewing private education as a safety net and, gambling that their child gets in, are willing to move to a cheaper place to fund the tuition. In other words: live small, educate big.

Marcia Giordano, a New York City real estate broker, and her husband, Shawn, a private chef, were thrilled when P. S. 276, a new elementary school in Battery Park City, opened near their home in 2009, just after the birth of their son, Otto.

They had outgrown their one-bedroom. But rather than sell it in a down market, they held onto it and moved to a larger rental unit in the building, so as to remain in the same school zone. Then last year, after Otto, then 3, was put on the waiting list for P. S. 276’s pre-K program, their plan began to feel tenuous. Parents at P. S. 276 were petitioning to limit next year’s kindergarten to avoid overcrowding.

 So the family moved out of the zone to a cheaper two-bedroom rental in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge, on what Ms. Giordano calls “the fringe” of Dumbo.

They are thus saving about a third of their monthly housing costs and funneling that directly into tuition for a private pre-K program for Otto and child care for their daughter, Chieko, 1. If their plans change again, they can always squeeze back into the apartment they own.

“Who knows what will happen with public school?” Ms. Giordano said. “We have to keep the door open for private school. That was the impetus for moving.

 “No matter what,” she added, “it’s ultimately a crapshoot. You kind of hope that people move and a spot opens up.”


Score Card

You know where you would like to live. Now what about the schools? Here are five things to consider when evaluating a school, particularly in changing neighborhoods.

Leadership Is Key School advisers agree that a charismatic principal with a clear vision and a deep respect for students is crucial. Enthusiastic teachers and active parents tend to follow.

Attendance Rising attendance rates — a sign that more families are being drawn to a school — are often a leading indicator of improvement.

Beyond Scores Although the number of students meeting state standards is important, improvements in school quality may not be reflected in test scores until the kindergartners who benefited from new teaching methods, for example, are tested for the first time in the third grade.

What’s on the Walls? Proudly displayed student projects that demonstrate individual thought and creativity are what you want to see, rather than cookie-cutter art projects or decorations made by the teacher. You can also tell a lot about writing skills by what students have composed.

Are Parents Involved? Invitations for parents to volunteer, attend school events or take ownership of the school in some way can indicate a supportive community.

 

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