initial assessment

Advocates offer praise, some of it measured, for state budget's charter school deal

New York City Charter School Center CEO James Merriman took a measured tone while praising the charter school deal that came out of state budget negotiations.

In a statement released Saturday morning, Merriman credited Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Senate for the deal, which ensured that the New York City’s 183-school sector will continue to expand. The deal requires the city to provide new or expanding schools with co-location plans or pay for a part of their private facilities costs, which includes rent.

“Governor Cuomo meant what he said and said what he meant and because of his leadership, and the good work of our legislature, particularly the state senate, we have secured the future growth of New York City’s charter sector,” Merriman said, referring to Cuomo’s outspoken support for charter schools. “We are grateful.”

Merriman also mentioned a shout-out for Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose chilly relationship with the charter sector has thawed in recent weeks. “We are also heartened by Mayor de Blasio’s clear efforts to work with charter leaders,” the statement continues.

Merriman did not criticize another part of the deal, which involves how charter schools are funded. Charter schools will likely receive significantly less than district schools in per-pupil funding increases under the deal, prompting Merriman and other advocates to mount a last-minute lobbying offensive this week to nix the plan.

Merriman barely alluded to those concerns in his statement, instead focusing on what he believed were the positives.

A separate group of charter school leaders, which has cozied up to de Blasio, called the “modest increase in per-pupil aid next year” a “welcome development.” But the group, called the Coalition of Community Charter Schools, raised concerns about many schools in private facilities that won’t benefit from the state budget.

“Many charter schools in private facilities have added thousands of seats to the system at their own expense and will not see relief under this budget,” the statement says.

A member of the coalition, Renaissance Charter School Principal and founder Stacey Gauthier, was more critical in an interview. She said that her school, which is unionized and must pay for teachers’ pension and healthcare obligations, needed all the money in per-pupil funding that it could get. Since funding increases would be capped at $500 over the next three years, she said, the school would take a big financial hit.

“I find that really horrendous,” Gauthier said. “I run my building on per-pupil money. I think it’s a tremendous loss.”

Merriman’s statement also played the role of mediator, calling for an end to what has been a weeks-long campaign waged in support of the legislation by Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz and her allies (Merriman’s group among them).

“With many fiscal and legal uncertainties now settled,  it is the time for all of us to put aside politics, ads, rallies, divisive rhetoric and campaigning, and instead continue our shared task of delivering the best possible education to all of our children,” the statement said.

Jeremiah Kittredge, who heads Families for Excellent Schools, the group that funded the campaign, said Cuomo and the legislature “responded to a groundswell of parent voices, and made a historic down payment on ensuring all public school families are treated equally.”

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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.