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.
Named after an incredibly active and respected member of the community, Aloma D. Johnson Charter School (ADJ) carries on her spirit of giving back to the Buffalo area.
“Aloma’s name stands for community activism, and her name and the school coincide. We work with both students and parents; we make sure the kids are aware of their community,” says School Director David Bouie.
Now in its seventh year, ADJ serves 300 students in kindergarten through 4th grade. The student body is 100% African American and Latino, and all students qualify for free and reduced lunch. Fifteen percent of the children are special education students.
On the high-needs makeup of the student population, Bouie says, “We serve a very unique population. Our needs are a lot greater than other charter schools to reach academic pinnacles.”
In serving so many high-needs children, the school offers a robust curriculum with a writing program and a focus on leadership. The school works with groups like the National Honor Society to help the students develop into leaders. ADJ emphasizes character building and students are given awards and prizes for their achievements.
Parent involvement is a large part of the culture at ADJ. Each year, the school takes part in the nationwide “Million Father March,” and other events are held throughout the year to foster community and family engagement.
But while the ADJ works hard to help the community and students in need, the school unfortunately finds itself met with a massive challenge.
The school rents space in a privately-owned building. Operating costs for the building take up thirteen percent of ADJ’s yearly budget. Money that could be spent on the classroom instead goes to keeping the lights on.
With reduced rent or building costs, ADJ would be able to better provide for the students, hiring more social work staff, and add more social activities to engage parents and families.
“We can’t get to the heart of educating children if we can’t work on students’ social and emotional needs. We need more help,” Bouie said.
Ken Kruly, the school’s financial controller, said, “If we had the level of per pupil funding that goes to Buffalo public schools we would have the resources to provide additional teaching and other support staff for the students.”
Bouie’s message to Albany is: “This is a civil rights issue. Many of the students that attend charter schools are minority students. Parents who pay taxes should be able to send their kids to the best possible school. It’s not fair that if they choose to put their child into a different kind of public school, their child doesn’t receive the same amount of money.
“To be fair to every child and every parent, there should be equal access for every student. It’s just fair that wherever the child goes, the funding goes to the school where the child goes. Those funds should not be held up in schools they are not attending.”
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