The 30 Schools in 30 Days project will highlight a different New York State charter school each day, featuring each school's successes, and the challenges that come from being denied access to state facilities funding. Perhaps most important, each school leader has a message for state lawmakers in Albany: please find a solution to the facilities funding problem and allow ALL of the state's charter schools access to building aid this year.
Before Albany Community Charter School was founded in 2005, Albany families, especially in low-income neighborhoods, did not have options for their children’s education. The school is providing the type of education its students may not otherwise have.
“With this school, we have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of our kids,” said Executive Director, Neal Currie.
Albany Community opened in 2006 and serves 650 students in grades K-8. Almost all are students of color and most qualify for free or reduced lunch. There are approximately 200 kids on the waiting list. The school is a nationally recognized Blue Ribbon School.
“Our school gives families a choice,” Currie said. “Prior to charters like this one opening in Albany, families were forced to use district schools, no matter how much the schools were struggling. Albany Community provides families and students a high-quality choice.”
Each classroom has two teachers, giving students more close attention. Tutoring is available to them, as well as homework help. Parents say that the principal greets each child at the door every morning – and that that kind of positivity continues throughout the day.
“Smaller class size make a tremendous difference,” Currie said. “We also focus on character and being good citizens. Our students have pride and they love coming to school.”
This model is paying off. On the most recent Math and ELA exams, students at Albany Community outperformed their district peers by impressive margins. (Test scores here.) It’s no secret that Albany City schools are struggling – options like Albany Community Charter give children an alternative and a means to succeed academically.
Currie also said the school always feels alive, and that there are children and families in the building at all hours. There are extra-curriculars like the military-style drill team that performs all over New York State. The school also has a drama club where kids write their own improve drama skits and perform their own plays.
“Something else that makes our school special is that most of our events are very well attended by the parents and community. At some, there is standing room only. Our Festival of Nations is now held at the state convention center because it became so large and popular with our families,” said Currie.
Despite the school’s success, it doesn’t receive the state facilities funding that all other traditional public schools receive. Fully half of the state’s charter schools are denied this funding because of an omission in state law.
“If we had facilities funding, we wouldn’t have to take money out of our operating budget. We could pay for more teachers and staff – and provide other opportunities for them. We could hire more academic intervention teachers, and those who can provide more specialized instruction,” Currie said.
Currie’s message to lawmakers: “We’re sending a message on behalf of our students. We want them in up-to-date facilities that are clean, safe, and warm where they can come and learn. I want to make sure charter and district students are treated equally because they are all public school students.”
Albany Community Charter School Executive Director Neal Currie, NECSN CEO Kyle Rosenkrans and charter school parent Latoya Taitt on "Capital Tonight"
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