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Charter parents say schools are changing their kids

Nora Marcano and her son Joel, who attends Harlem Link Charter School at the Armory last night.
Nora Marcano and her son Joel, who attends Harlem Link Charter School at the Armory last night.

Parents at last night’s high-energy charter school rally took time out to tell me a little bit about their (overwhelmingly positive) experience with the schools.

They gave a more personal portrait of schools that are often defined (at least on this site) by their politics, such as Harlem Success Academy, which has been battling for space inside a traditional public school; Harlem Link, whose founder said he favors slower growth than Harlem Success; and Democracy Prep Charter School, whose students have testified at hearings on mayoral control and whose founder entered the debate on “creaming.”

“I think this is something new and not everybody believes yet,” Mayrene Lopez, the mother of a six year-old at Harlem Success Academy told me, explaining why charter schools create controversy.

Lopez said her son Justin has improved tremendously since entering the school in August as a first-grader, and she wants her two-year-old to be able to attend a charter school when she’s old enough, too. Justin didn’t get into the school the first time he entered the lottery. The next time he was put on a waiting list. And then he got in. “He’s reading and writing on his own,” Lopez said proudly.

Juanita Vasquez said she couldn’t be happier about the change in her son since he started at Democracy Prep Charter School as a sixth grader last fall. “Oh yeah, he’s changed,” she said while waiting for the show to start. “Especially his behavior at home, he’s more responsible with things. So it’s a big difference.”

She wants her first-grade son to also be able to benefit from the small class size and extra attention she said her older son gets from his charter school.

Nora Marcano said that her son Joel has benefited from being a student at Harlem Link Charter School. “Charter school challenges him a lot,” she said. “I think people shouldn’t judge charter schools. There’s so many students in the public schools. My friend said that her daughter’s having trouble in certain subjects: math, reading. Being that there’s so many students in school, it’s harder for her to learn.”

But one parent says overcrowding is a risk even at charter schools. David McNeal, a parent and chairperson of the PTA at SISULU, said that because the school is 10 years old, the facilities are inadequate and the classrooms are becoming crowded. “We’re trying our best to avoid overcrowded classrooms,” he said, holding a brightly colored sign that read “HELP SISULU FIND A NEW HOME.” “We’re trying our best to avoid having our children learn in a facility where they have to sit on a floor.”

McNeal was quick to add that he wouldn’t want to move his first grade daughter to any other school, especially not a traditional public one. “Our children are passing!” he explained.

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