In our newsletter yesterday I thanked many people who were instrumental in getting us to the point of filing a strong application. Any list inevitably excludes some folks. But three others should have been on it. We're sorry to have skipped them.
- The founder of Growing Up Green Charter School, Matthew Greenberg, was a source of insight and inspiration, up to the day before we filed. Families in Astoria should have GUGS on their list of schools to check out.
- Tenicka Boyd and Ben Lazarus from Students First helped canvas, distributed flyers about ICS meetings, and asked Brooklyn parents to support ICS by signing our petition. We're delighted and grateful to have had their help.
Apart from attending tonight's education forum at Restoration Plaza in Bed-Stuy, what else will the ICS team be doing while we wait for a response from the state?
We'll be continuing to visit other inspiring schools.
- Last week I had the chance to visit St. Hope Academy in Harlem. They are a middle school that is leveraging technology to engage more effectively with their parents. Apart from blast emails and a Facebook page, they've also developed scripts that support their teachers in talking with parents more effectively, recognizing that the way we start a conversation often controls how it will end.
- Next Tuesday we're at KIPP Star in Washington Heights. Principal Anokhi Saraiya has created specialized classes for kids with more severe learning disabilities, called 12:1:1. This means no more than 12 students, with a special education teacher and an aide. Some families of children with disabilities are so pleased with KIPP that even when their IEP calls for a more restrictive environment, they decline the recommendation so their kids can stay at KIPP. So KIPP has responded by trying to create more options, and we're eager to see how this works.
- On April 2 we're visiting the lower school at Dalton. This private school on Manhattan's UES was featured prominently the documentary American Promise that I blogged about a few weeks back. Apart from learning more about how they are addressing issues of boys and race, we're eager to look at another academically demanding program and see what we can take back to ICS. I've not been to Dalton since I flunked my nursery school interview a few years back, so it will be interesting.
If you'd like to join us on any of these visits, just drop me an email.
We'll be thinking about Real Estate
The new Mayor's policies towards charter schools seem to be evolving so I'm hesitant to offer a view on what his administration might do that either helps or hinders our efforts. As I've previously noted in newsletters, and as we state in the application, we believe our relationship with the administration is positive.
But regardless, we think it's highly unlikely the city will offer us the kind of space we need to operate in an educationally and economically effective way. Even under Mayor Bloomberg, most charter schools were not offered more than 2 or 3 sections on a grade in their co-located spaces. And if they were successful, this meant rather than serving the maximum number of families they could, they had (and often still have) long waiting lists. My business background says you don't succeed by turning away people who want to be part of your community.
So the ICS Trustees and the planning team will be meeting with brokers, landlords and others who can help us to find between 15,000 and 60,000 sq. feet of suitable space in Brooklyn.
If you have ideas, we're eager to hear them. Email us here.
We'll be thinking about Community
Nearly 1,300 folks signed our petition. We're building a database and following up with them to understand their interest in ICS, the ages of their kids, and whether they'd like to be notified if/when we get ready to enroll kids.
Our goal of creating a diverse school is challenging, and made more so by the fact that we cannot offer admissions preferences. (New York state is evaluating its policies in this regard but for the moment we cannot count on a change). So the pressure is on us to reach out as broadly and deeply as possible to the many Brooklyn neighborhoods we want to serve, and encourage as wide a set of parents as possible to consider ICS. Any readers of this blog who are looking for a volunteer opportunity should email us.
What else should we be doing? Let us know in the comments field below.