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.
Broome Street Academy Charter School (BSA) does so much more than educate its students – it nurtures them, feeds them, often helps clothe them, provides them healthcare, and prepares them for post-secondary success.
The high school, which serves children from all of New York City’s five boroughs, has a very distinct and vulnerable population of students. Half of the school’s students are homeless or in foster care, 30% of the students are special education students, and most came from under-performing middle schools.
School director Barbara McKeon said, “A lot of what we do is work to regain trust with our students and let them know we won’t fail them. We deal with a lack of trust in systems and adults.”
Broome Street grew out of the strategic plan of The Door, a non-profit youth development agency. BSA students become automatic members of The Door, which provides them with food (ensuring that they get three meals a day), health care, dental, mental health services, and recreation activities. The students are provided a holistic program to address not just their academic needs, but their personal needs as well.
2015 will see Broome Street’s first graduating class.
McKeon said, “This is our Championship Year. We are graduating our first class and we want every single staff member, from janitorial to front desk to teachers, to be champions for these kids. What this means is we each have a group of students for whom we are the champions. This is one of the ways we’re building trust between our students and adults in their lives.”
The school also works to emphasize post secondary success for its students. Anyone who wants to go to college is encouraged to and if not, the school helps them become career ready. Each has a transition counselor who will help them make that step, but this is a very unique type of support system. The school is providing support for its students for four years post graduation to make sure that they stay on track.
“We are trying to prevent drop outs from happening in the first year of college, primarily,” said McKeon.
McKeon and her staff are changing their students’ lives. They are helping to ensure their students become productive, successful and happy.
“I have a very specific and vulnerable population. We believe in data, of course, but that is not the only measurement of success. Accountability may be more important to me than the data-driven goals.
“Charters have a bad rap for not being accountable – we are not that charter school. We are accountable.”
McKeon also gladly shares best practices. “In fact, BSA is the host school in the Chancellor’s learning program so we are working with two district schools to share our teaching methods.”
Chancellor Carmen Farina visited the school last year and praised its work.
But, McKeon said, “We need more money to be able to make our mission a reality for more children.
“A huge chunk of change –11% of our budget – is used on facilities. That is money that could be going to more programs – programs we need.”
McKeon was asked what the money spent on facilities could go toward.
“Oh my gosh, so many things. We are trying to collaborate to enhance our drama program. We need to incorporate AP classes. We want to broaden our arts offerings. I would love to offer internship programs for our students. There are so many things we could do for these kids with more money. When I first came to the school, there wasn’t even a sign on the door. That tells you something.”
McKeon’s message to lawmakers is simple: “Our students deserve what every other kid deserves. Facilities fairness. It’s about equity.”
Introducing Broome Street Academy
Broome Street Academy students participate in a Classroom Without Walls, which dramatized the need for facilities funding for charter schools located in private space.
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