Seeking approval

11 city charter hopefuls move to next round of application process

PHOTO: Geoff Decker

A single-sex school, a school that offers the International Baccalaureate diploma, and a Staten Island high school for students at risk of dropping out are among 11 prospective New York City charter schools that the State Education Department invited this month to submit full applications to open in 2015.

Thirty-four schools across the state submitted letters of intent, and 17 were chosen to continue to this next round of the application process. The Board of Regents will make a final decision on the schools in November. Schools given the green light will get support finding space from New York City, in keeping with recent legislation.

None of the city schools angling for approval from the State Education Department are part of national charter networks. Many are locally-based, such as the proposed New Ventures Charter School, which would target overage students in Staten Island who are not on track to graduate. The application notes that while there are thousands of such students in the borough, Staten Island has only one transfer school to serve them.

Some charter applicants represent small-scale expansions. Steve Perry, the principal of Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., has applied to open a version of the school here. Perry, whose personal website calls him “America’s most trusted educator,” has assembled high-profile board members such as sports media personality Stephen A. Smith.

Other proposed school models include the single-sex school, the Sankofa School for Boys in Harlem, and the Sofara International Charter School, which would be one of the few charters in the city to offer an IB program.

In their letters of intent, schools outlined their missions, enrollment plans, and initial board members. In accordance with new state regulations that require charters to serve the same demographics as district schools, the letters also broadly described how the schools would recruit high-need students.

Hi-Tech Healthcare Charter School, for example, wrote that it would distribute recruitment materials in Spanish to target English language learners and would work with organizations that support students with disabilities.

The schools that the State Education Department is ushering toward operation are only some of the charter schools that hope to open in the city. SUNY’s Charter Schools Institute can also sign off on new schools, and this month, 17 of the 18 schools that submitted letters of intent filed full proposals.

While SUNY invited all 18 proposed charters to apply, one school opted out. This applicant was the Washington Heights Leadership Academy School, which aimed to “carry forward some of the legacy” of Mother Cabrini High School after it closed in June, according to Democracy Prep founder Seth Andrew, who grew up in the neighborhood and submitted the letter.

Andrew said he nixed plans to apply after losing Cabrini’s former facility, which was leased to Success Academy in a deal with the city after Mayor Bill de Blasio pulled one of the network’s schools from a public school site.

Fourteen Success Academies hoping to open over the next two years are among SUNY’s current batch of charter school proposals, along with three Achievement First schools.

These schools, and the 11 being considered by the State Education Department, would serve over 16,800 students at full capacity.

Last month, SUNY picked six charter schools to start up in 2015, and the Board of Regents approved one.

By the end of the five-year charter period, enrollment at these seven schools is expected to top 3,100.

This article has been clarified to reflect the status of SUNY’s charter school applicants.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at [email protected]

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”