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.
“This school is the definition of what a public school should look like. We have such a diverse population with 34 home languages spoken, kids of many colors and religions.”
This is how Growing up Green Charter School founder and school leader Matthew Greenberg describes his school, now in its 6th year. The school serves Long Island City and Astoria, as well as surrounding neighborhoods in Queens. It’s K-6 now but will grow to K-8 in two years.
Greenberg has been in education for 20 years and has worked in a host of school environments, from private schools to public schools. He says one thing is certain – the city needs more good public schools to give children the opportunity to learn and be successful.
And if demand is any indication, Growing up Green is a success. There is a huge waiting list. For 2014-15, the school had 1500 applications for just 120 seats.
Greenberg and his teachers employ a learning-lab school model with a heavy emphasis on science and social studies.
The teachers used museum visits and trips outside of the classroom to “bring to life” what the kids are learning, Greenberg says.
“For instance, if they’re learning about immigrants maybe they will take a trip to Ellis Island or the Tenement Museum.”
The school is also a responsive classroom school and every school employee is trained in this model. Greenberg says this is an effective language used to connect students to each other and their school.
“This is how each day is launched,” said Greenberg. “It’s used to help our students decide to make good choices. You can feel the energy. This is unlike many schools.”
Another part of making the school a success is involving parents in the learning process. The school is always open to the parents, and they are invited to visit at any time.
Greenberg said, "There always parents around our school. If you visit, you’ll see parents.”
But there are huge challenges that the school faces. Greenberg says $2,300 is taken from each child’s per-pupil allocation to pay for facilities and operating costs.
"This really compromises us. Say our ventilations system breaks in the kitchen, which it did. It's over $20,000 we have to pay to fix it. We pay so much for our building. We could be spending this money on our kids.”
Asked what facilities funding would mean to the school, Greenberg says, “It would be a game changer for us.”
There is a laundry-list of items the school could use for their children:
- More teachers
- More enrichment and intervention programs
- Professional development for teachers
- Healthy food program with fresher produce
Greenberg’s message to lawmakers: "As a public school, we are asking for fairness and equity. Facilities funding should be part of what we receive.”
Growing Up Green student Jade Walker describes her favorite things about her school
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