look who's here

Surprise guest at charter operators' second meeting with city: de Blasio himself

Mayor Bill de Blasio made an unexpected appearance at a meeting of charter school leaders and Department of Education officials today, presenting himself as enthusiastic about charter schools on a day when he has been attacked from both sides for his positions on co-locations.

The charter school operators, who represent a coalition that aims to collaborate with de Blasio, were expecting to meet with Ursulina Ramirez, Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s chief of staff, and other officials from City Hall today for a second conversation about how the charter sector and City Hall can work together. (Fariña was at the first meeting, two weeks ago, but not at today’s.)

Instead, the mayor himself spent 45 minutes talking through policies related to charter schools and other issues, according to several coalition members who attended. The meeting came just hours after de Blasio conceded on national television that his administration “could have done better public relations” around charter schools.

The biggest news, the charter operators said, was that de Blasio said he would allow new space-sharing plans in the future in conjunction with a new decision-making process, potentially allowing the charter sector to expand in public space.

“That’s new — we were very concerned that there would be no growth,” said one charter operator who requested anonymity because he was not designated to speak for the group.

De Blasio also signaled that he would work with charter schools to make sure they are included in two of his lobbying priorities: expanding pre-kindergarten programs and increasing state aid to city schools.

Currently, state law prohibits charter schools from operating pre-K programs. When de Blasio offered, as he has before, that charter schools can offer pre-K through associated nonprofits, the charter operators explained that the arrangement would be problematic because pre-K students would not be guaranteed kindergarten admission.

“He immediately came back and said he was really interested in digging into that as an issue,” said Rafiq Kalim Id-Din, who runs Teaching Firms of America Charter School. “He expressed a full-throated desire and commitment to see charters as a partner in that work.”

The meeting did not delve deeply into more specific policy issues, such as enrollment or de Blasio’s plan to charge rent to some charter schools.

But de Blasio indicated that when he would consult with charter school leaders when hashing out future policies involving charter schools, the operators said, and Rich Buery, a deputy mayor who used to run a charter school when he headed the Children’s Aid Society, committed to regular meetings with the group.

And City Hall officials signaled that they are interested in working only with charter operators who are committed to collaborating with the de Blasio administration.

“They were also clear that they want to be talking to people who aren’t shooting at them at the same time,” said one operator, alluding to the litigation against the city that Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz filed today over de Blasio’s changes to co-location plans for her schools.

By far, the most promising sign was that de Blasio himself engaged in the conversation, said Stacey Gauthier, who runs Renaissance Charter School in Queens.

“We were surprised that he came in, and happy to be reassured that he wants to work with us,” she said.

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.