By Robert Press
Public Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza visited the Excellence Community Charter School located at 1960 Benedict Avenue this past week. Chancellor Carranza wanted to see the new seven story charter school to find out why it was so popular in the Parkchester area.
Chancellor Carranza was greeted by the CEO of the Excellence Charter School group Dr. Charlene Reid who took him on a tour of the charter school. I was able to go on the tour with Chancellor Carranza and Dr. Reid. The school is seven stories tall with grades Kindergarten through eighth grade in the building. We first visited a kindergarten class where the students were sitting on the floor eagerly listening to the teacher.
We then went up to the seventh floor to see some older children in different rooms. There was a music class with so many different instruments, a computer class, where I was also told that each student receives their own lap top computer. As we went down floor by floor we visited various different classes in rooms that you might see in most public schools if it was possible. It appeared that Dr. Reid was showing off her school to public schools Chancellor Carranza. I felt that I was in one of the few New York City schools that was making the grade, because as a citywide parent leader I saw to many schools that were performing below the standards.
In a charter school children have to apply to the school, and if more children apply than seats available there are rules to determine which children will be admitted first. A lottery is then held for the remaining seats available, and a wait list is set up should any children move away or decide to attend another school. I was told that the Excellence Charter School in Parkchester has a wait list of close to one thousand applicants. Dr. Reid said that for the new building the charter school group this school is in was able to issue bonds for the thirty million dollars needed to build the seven story building.
After the tour was completed Chancellor Carranza and Dr. Reid went into an office for a private discussion. The chancellor came out to say that he was looking to create a relationship between the public schools and charter schools in the city. He then took questions from those of us who remained. Some questions asked about the admission policy to this charter school, what resources charter schools receive as compared to public schools, and how charter schools differ from public schools. Already knowing the answers to those questions, I asked Chancellor Carranza about the poor performance of Bronx public schools, pointing out local public schools which are not performing as well as this charter school.
Chancellor Carranza admitted that Bronx public schools were not doing as well as he and the mayor would like, but that he was new on the job, he would have to look at each individual school, and to give him some time. I replied those were almost the exact words I heard from Chancellor Joel Klein over fifteen years ago. I then said parents want to know why their children are not getting the education they are suppose to get, and that could be a reason that the Bronx Charter School For Excellence was so popular in the Parkchester and surrounding area.