Recently, and unfortunately, much of the media surrounding charter schools has focused on school closures. So much so that one can forget how many amazing charter schools New York City is fortunate to have.
This month, New York’s State Education Department reminded us of this fact by nominating the Bronx Charter School for Excellence for a Blue Ribbon Award.
The Blue Ribbon Award, considered one of the highest honors an American school can achieve, is awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to honor schools that have achieved high levels of performance or significant improvements. The award places emphasis on schools serving underprivileged students and particularly honors schools that have been closing the achievement gap.
Bronx Charter School for Excellence, which was one of only 19 schools in the state nominated, deserves the nomination (and should win the award) for two reasons. First, and this is what the SED based its nomination on, the school’s students are succeeding. This is true in math, but even more importantly, in English Language Arts. Over 94 percent of their students are proficient.
The school also deserves the award for reasons less well known. The fact is that when the school was opened, it stumbled badly as a result of unexpected and unfortunate leadership changes. The school was on the path to non-renewal. However, the board of the school refused to quit. Instead, they took charge, and under the leadership of the board chair, Joyce Frost, found a talented, dedicated and seasoned principal, Charlene Reid (who happened to be a DOE veteran, frustrated with the bureaucracy at her district school) to lead the path forward. Since taking on the job, she and her team of dedicated teachers transformed the school (without litigation, negotiation, statutory action or involvement from governors, mayors or others).
None of it was easy; none of it is easy. Every day, the team at Bronx Charter for Excellence builds anew a school culture that is dedicated to seeing students flourish and grow. Every day there are challenges. And every day, the school pushes itself to do and be better.
That’s why we have charters–so that great leaders and great teachers can come together and concentrate on one thing and one thing only: making a great public school available to their students, and in turn showing and sharing what is possible with all public schools whether charter or district.