south bronx

Algebra for All

New York

Venerable social services group wades into school management

As a Bronx elementary school principal, Drema Brown routinely encountered students who were struggling to complete schoolwork without adequate health care, a stable address, or even electricity. Challenges like those held Brown back from boosting academic achievement. Even worse, she said, she couldn't solve the problems wrought by poverty, either. “I might take it for granted that I can just take my daughter to an eye doctor’s appointment and I have insurance that is going to get her that $300, $400 pair of glasses. But sometimes in a school something as simple as that could languish for an entire school year,” said Brown, who headed P.S. 230 in the South Bronx's District 9 from 2003 to 2007. Now a top official at the Children's Aid Society, the 158-year-old social services provider, Brown is leading an experiment in integrating health and social services into a school setting. Children's Aid is set to open its charter school in the Morrisania section of the Bronx next fall. The Board of Regents formally approved the school's charter earlier today. Plans for the school have been in the works since 2009, when Richard Buery became Children's Aid's president and CEO. Buery, who has a background in law and education non-profit management, asked CAS staff who worked with community schools to think about how a community school operated by CAS could have a longer-term impact than the agency’s usual school partnerships. The group already works with city schools to deliver social services and connect after-school programs. And since 2000 the group has run a full clinic in Morrisania, offering preventive services and a meeting place for families whose children are in foster care. But the new project marks Children's Aid's first venture into school management. The clinic “is a visible presence in the community with lots of welcoming faces," Brown said. "Our mission now is to a establish a school that feels the same way for kids and their families so that education becomes more attractive and a welcoming experience." That's a sentiment that hasn't always been present in the South Bronx, which has a longstanding reputation for poverty, crime and lackluster public schools.
New York

Bronx students demand support to turn around their school

Students at Samuel Gompers High School in the South Bronx held a protest march today to ask for more support for their struggling school. (Patrick Wall) Students at a South Bronx high school staged a march today to demand that the city seek more federal support to improve their school. The students, who attend Samuel Gompers High School, have a specific improvement model in mind: the "re-start" option that is one of four models districts can follow in order to receive federal school turnaround funding. Gompers is one of nine poorly performing high schools that are eligible for the federal help, but are not part of the city's application for federal turnaround grants. Twenty-two other schools are receiving the grants, and 11 schools are already working with federal grants under the "transformation" improvement model. “Why hasn’t the DOE given the grants to all the schools?” Gompers sophomore Sony Cabral asked at the rally. “They’re setting us up for failure.” The students ended their march, which attracted about two dozen students, at the nearby Banana Kelly High School, one of the schools slated to receive the restart funding. The city chose schools for the restart plan that it felt showed signs of improvement and enough leadership capacity to work with outside organizations to make serious adjustments, said Department of Education spokesperson Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld. “The schools we didn’t choose for restart just did not have the type of leadership and staff in place that we felt could effectively team up with an educational partnership organization,” said Zarin-Rosenfeld. School officials said that the nine schools that are not part of the city's turnaround application will still get some support. The city Department of Education is adding an extra $300,000 to their budgets and offering help from teams in the Children's First networks, which support schools with a range of needs from professional development to budgeting.
New York

At a South Bronx school, a teacher blogs and a principal resigns

Nine months after an anonymous teacher-blogger began waging an online campaign against the leadership at his school, PS 154 in the Bronx, the principal that he skewered has decided to resign. As of today, Linda Amill-Irizarry is no longer the principal at PS 154, DOE spokeswoman Ann Forte confirmed for me. Amill-Irizarry, who before becoming PS 154's principal was briefly the superintendent of District 8 in the Bronx, is taking a position in the Leadership Learning Support Organization, one of the outside support networks that schools can partner with. PS 154 has been part of a different network, the Empowerment Schools Organization. Marsha Elliott has been appointed as interim acting principal, Forte told me. Elliott was formerly an assistant principal at PS 50 in the Bronx, and she also led PS 158 while it was being phased out due to poor performance. According to The Chief-Leader, a newspaper produced by the city's labor organizations, Elliott was fined last year by the city's Conflict of Interests Board for encouraging staff members at PS 158 to visit the church in Queens where she and her husband were co-pastors. Forte said there is an open investigation of Amill-Irizarry in the Office of Special Investigations, the DOE's in-house unit that examines allegations of wrongdoing in the city schools. Forte she said she could not characterize the allegations against the former principal but said the investigation would continue. For the last nine months, the teacher-blogger has documented what he (or she — the blogger's gender isn't noted on the blog) says is illicit behavior at PS 154, charging that Amill-Irizarry and an assistant principal, whom he nicknamed "Numb Nuts," failed to report incidents according to required procedures.