The co-location situation

Looking to 2013, city pitches space plans for Success schools

The school year is only a few weeks underway, but the Department of Education is already hard at work figuring out where to put its new schools in 2013.

Today, the department announced that it had published “Educational Impact Statements” about changes it wants to make at 17 school buildings next year. The statements, which appeared on the department’s website on Thursday, are the first component of a public comment process that legally must precede any major changes to how school buildings are used.

Eight of the proposals are for new charter school co-locations, including seven in the Success Academies network. The network, which has opened 14 schools since it was founded by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz in 2006, was one of two charter management organizations that Mayor Bloomberg said during his State of the City address in January that he would like to see grow.

All of the Success schools, which employ non-unionized teachers, operate in public school buildings and its co-locations proposals tend to attract the most pubic outrage from union officials and school community members. Last year, two separate lawsuits were filed against the Department of Education and Moskowitz for Brooklyn co-location plans. A judge dismissed both suits.

SUNY’s Charter Schools Institute approved the network’s request to launch seven more schools next year, but until now exactly where the schools would open has been a question mark. Two were approved to open in Manhattan’s District 2, which has many high-performing and overcrowded elementary schools. Parents argued that the district did not need another elementary school option and could not accommodate one in any case.

But the city has proposed carving out space in two high school buildings that are located in the district but historically have enrolled few students from the area. One of the buildings, in Union Square, is the home of Washington Irving High School, which is being phased out for poor performance, and several small schools that have already opened to replace Irving. The other building houses the High School of Graphics Communications Arts, which the city unsuccessfully tried to close and reopen using an overhaul strategy called “turnaround” this past summer. Both buildings currently have fewer students than they were built to accommodate.

Already, at least one of the the Success proposals has stirred controversy. District 13 community members said they oppose the city’s plan to open Brooklyn Success Academy 5 at M.S. 265 Susan S. McKinney, a Fort Greene secondary school. The building also houses a District 75 school.

The building currently enrolls 470 students, less than 50 percent of its 1,035-student capacity, according to the city’s utilization estimate. But City Councilwoman Letitia James said she had safety concerns with placing elementary school-aged students in the same building as high school students. She also took issue with the lack of feedback sought by city officials before they proposed the plan.

“There’s really not much of a process,” said James, who attended an information meeting hosted by the department’s Division of Portfolio Planning on Wednesday night. “There has been no deliberation, no consideration, no transparency.”

The eighth new charter school co-location would add a new school in the Achievement First network, Aspire Elementary School, to the P.S. 202 building in Brooklyn’s District 19.

Most of the rest of the proposals the department announced today are grade truncations or expansions meant to bring schools’ grade structure in line with citywide norms. For example, the city wants to lop two grades off of Brooklyn College Academy so that it is a standard high school, rather than serving students in grades seven through 12, as it does now.

The city school board, known as the Panel for Educational Policy, is set to consider the proposals at its Nov. 8 meeting. The date is months earlier than last year, when the panel didn’t vote to approve the Williamsburg Success co-location until March. The panel, whose members are mostly appointed by Bloomberg, has never rejected a city proposal.

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.