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.
When Vicky D’Anjou-Pomerleau talks about the school where she works - Bedford-Stuyvesant New Beginnings Charter School (BSNBCS)- you can hear the excitement in her voice.
“Our school’s founders are very connected to the community. Some have roots going back generations, one founder as many as six generations. They’re invested and wanted to make a difference here,” said D’Anjou-Pomerleau, who is the school’s Associate Director of Knowledge and Development.
One of the major ways the school is making a difference is by instilling in its 525 students the importance of service learning.
“We teach our students through action-based learning and social change. The children learn about the processes to enact social change, not just doing a one-day volunteer event. We like them to think about strategy and planning.”
For instance, the younger children of the school are working on a neighborhood beautification project. They planted daffodil bulbs last fall and will do the proper work to see that they bloom in the spring. They’re getting used to thinking about the long-term goals of bettering their neighborhoods.
BSNBCS opened in 2010 as a K-3 school and will grow to serve students in K-8.
D’Anjou-Pomerleau said there are a variety of other ways BSNBCS is unique.
“We try very hard to hire people from the community to work here. I really value that. Our Executive Director lives three blocks away, I live 15 minutes away and I walk here. Many other employees ride their bikes or walk to work. The idea is that we are in it for the community and the long run.”
BSNBCS is very progressive, too, with a hydroponic urban farm in the building. The students learn how to grow plants and understand their life cycle. The plants are then used for the school’s culinary arts club. And BSNBCS teaches its students about food justice with a partnership with an organization called Teens for Food Justice. The group works on an “equitable, sustainable approach to food” according to its website.
BSNBCS is finding ways to make a positive impact on the community and its students and it is successful. The school out-performs the district in both math and English Language Arts.
But like all other charter schools in private space, the school did not benefit from last year’s law that helped a segment of new and expanding charter schools either find or pay for space.
“Like many other charter schools, we’re forced to dip into our per-pupil funding to pay for rent. About 1/5 of the funds meant for our students’ instruction and programming goes into our lease, not to mention other building costs,” said D’Anjou-Pomerleau.
“We still have 20 years on our lease, and this is a 90 year-old building. School administrators in charter schools really have to plan differently. We have to think about how to heat the building, the plumbing, and the repairs. Sometimes we have to play the role of building manager."
“We have to become experts in areas that are not directly connected to education and we have to figure out how to pay for it so that our kids can learn in the best environment possible.”
D’Anjou-Pomerleau was asked what the money spent on the building could go toward.
"If I had an million-plus a year extra, I would hire more teachers to support our at-risk students, hire additional guidance counselors and build more proactive interventions for our students. I would provide our staff with more high-quality trainings."
She goes on, “What I ask myself is: ‘How can we make this school environment a beacon in our neighborhood that is a resource to everyone? It’s part of the dream.’”
Her message to lawmakers is: “Every child in New York State should receive the same funding for their education. Our children are having their fair share stolen from them. We out-perform the neighborhood schools with 80% of their instructional funding. Imagine what we could do if we had fair funding. We could do so much more.”
BSNB students visit Tranquility Farm
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