District 9

call for help

A better way

Algebra for All

leadership lessons

Peer-to-Peer

New York

In a South Bronx district, parents want action on failing schools

P.S. 64 parents Symone Williams (right) and Natasha Campbell outside of the school Wednesday afternoon. Frustrated parents in one South Bronx district took to the streets Wednesday to raise awareness about the disproportionately high number of failing schools in the neighborhood. Among their requests: for the city to turn toward District 9 more often when deciding which schools to close. At P.S. 64, on 170th street, the parents protested during dismissal on a sidewalk just outside the courtyard where parents picked up their children. Next they marched up Webster Avenue to a building that houses two middle schools on the state's latest list of lowest-performing schools. The protest struck a nerve with several parents at the elementary school. They collided with the protesters on the sidewalk during dismissal, prompting some to share their own frustrations with P.S. 64. Valerie Fernandez said the homework that her fifth-grade son brought home hardly prepared him to think and write critically. One assignment he had earlier this year was to color in the countries of a world map, Fernandez said. "I think they should give the principal a chance, but cut the staff," said Fernandez. "The teachers, they just wait until they can go home." Another parent, Natasha Campbell, described the notebook that her daughter, who is in second-grade, brought home from school. Several assignments called for her to write her name down in the notebook over and over again, and now the pages are filled with her name, Campbell said.
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.