30 Schools in 30 Days: International Leadership Charter School

Posted by on 01 / 20 / 2015 0 Reactions

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.
International Leadership Charter School (ILCHS), the first public charter high school in the Bronx, is the embodiment of a school that helps change lives and provide a brighter future for its students. It opened its doors in 2006 and currently serves 320 students in grades 9-12, with hopes to expand to serve 450 students in the future.
College prep is a major focus for ILCHS, and that focus is paying off big time for the students - over 90% of graduates go to college. The success of ILCHS has garnered plenty of attention. US News and World Report named International Leadership as one of the “Best High Schools of 2013 and 2014,” and Newsweek named the school one of “America’s Top High Schools” for 2014.
ILCHS prides itself on being invested in the community and working hard to make sure its students are prepared for life after school. The majority of the students are children of Latino immigrants, primarily Dominican, and most students qualify for free and reduced lunch. Serving a high-needs population, a focus is put on making sure students receive the best education possible.
High expectations, academic rigor and test prep are a large part of the college readiness focus at the school. Tutoring for one hour per week per subject is available for all students, and a “Saturday Academy” is offered. Students also receive real world experience, with each one putting in 100 hours in internships before graduation.
In recognizing their students’ hard work, ILCHS received some local news attention earlier in the school year with a nice gesture for the school’s seniors.
“Our students work so diligently on their college applications, so we had this idea to have our scholars march to the post office – 9th, 10th, 11th graders cheering on the students as they went to mail in their college apps,” said CEO and founder Dr. Elaine Ruiz Lopez.
Despite the great work International Leadership is doing, the school faces many challenges. Authorized to serve 350 students, the school’s enrollment is only at 320 because their building is so small.
Dr. Ruiz Lopez said, “The direct negative impact is that we cannot provide a recreation area or a library. We have miraculously been able to do much more with less, but we cannot completely meet our enrollment of 350 because it’s a really tight space. We use every nook and cranny of our space.”
Fortunately, the school was able to secure bond funding for a new facility they plan to move in August 2015. The new facility will move the school from a one-floor operation to three, complete with a cafeteria, two science labs, an adolescent health clinic and a library and visual media center. However, this new facility causes an additional financial burden for the school.
Since the school is located in private commercial space, a massive amount is spent annually to paying rent and overhead expenses, rather than investing in greater for instructional resources and staff. The school must also make the payments on the bond for the new facility, so they are paying for both their current facility and the new one at once.
Dr. Ruiz Lopez’s message to lawmakers is: “We have closed the achievement gap for hundreds of public school students, outperforming the city and the state. We have done so, without any facilities funding and an overhead expense of over $660,000.00 annually for a private space that does not have the room for library, recreation area and proper cafeteria for our students.  If you believe charter school students deserve more, please consider the costs of not closing the funding gap today!”


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