family's eye view

Charter parents say schools are changing their kids

Nora Marcano and her son Joel, who attends Harlem Link Charter School at the Armory last night.

Parents at last night’s high-energy charter school rally took time out to tell me a little bit about their (overwhelmingly positive) experience with the schools.

They gave a more personal portrait of schools that are often defined (at least on this site) by their politics, such as Harlem Success Academy, which has been battling for space inside a traditional public school; Harlem Link, whose founder said he favors slower growth than Harlem Success; and Democracy Prep Charter School, whose students have testified at hearings on mayoral control and whose founder entered the debate on “creaming.”

“I think this is something new and not everybody believes yet,” Mayrene Lopez, the mother of a six year-old at Harlem Success Academy told me, explaining why charter schools create controversy.

Lopez said her son Justin has improved tremendously since entering the school in August as a first-grader, and she wants her two-year-old to be able to attend a charter school when she’s old enough, too. Justin didn’t get into the school the first time he entered the lottery. The next time he was put on a waiting list. And then he got in. “He’s reading and writing on his own,” Lopez said proudly.

Juanita Vasquez said she couldn’t be happier about the change in her son since he started at Democracy Prep Charter School as a sixth grader last fall. “Oh yeah, he’s changed,” she said while waiting for the show to start. “Especially his behavior at home, he’s more responsible with things. So it’s a big difference.”

She wants her first-grade son to also be able to benefit from the small class size and extra attention she said her older son gets from his charter school.

David McNeal, a parent and chairperson of the PTA at SISULU charter school, says the school is getting crowded and needs more space.

Nora Marcano said that her son Joel has benefited from being a student at Harlem Link Charter School. “Charter school challenges him a lot,” she said. “I think people shouldn’t judge charter schools. There’s so many students in the public schools. My friend said that her daughter’s having trouble in certain subjects: math, reading. Being that there’s so many students in school, it’s harder for her to learn.”

But one parent says overcrowding is a risk even at charter schools. David McNeal, a parent and chairperson of the PTA at SISULU, said that because the school is 10 years old, the facilities are inadequate and the classrooms are becoming crowded. “We’re trying our best to avoid overcrowded classrooms,” he said, holding a brightly colored sign that read “HELP SISULU FIND A NEW HOME.” “We’re trying our best to avoid having our children learn in a facility where they have to sit on a floor.”

McNeal was quick to add that he wouldn’t want to move his first grade daughter to any other school, especially not a traditional public one. “Our children are passing!” he explained.

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.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.