room to grow

With public help, a charter school will move out of city space

Yankee Mark Teixeira, Chancellor Walcott, Mayor Bloomberg and Housing Authority Chairman John Rhea stand with DREAM students

Mayor Bloomberg announced a plan to move at least one charter school out of its home inside a district school building today. But the plan does not involve a change in the legal battle that the city faces over its decision to grant space to some charter schools.

Instead, the DREAM Charter School will move out of a district school building and into a new space in East Harlem that it will share with 90 new New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) apartments.

The new building, an $85 million project that will replace a parking lot connected to the Washington Houses, is being constructed through a mix of private and public dollars.

Of the public dollars, $32.5 million will come from a Department of Education program that provides matching grants to help build facilities for charter schools, which are publicly funded but receive no direct state support for facilities expenses and are not guaranteed public space.

Another nearly $30 million will come from housing development funds.

“NYCHA properties happen to have pockets of a scarce and really valuable resource in our city: underutilized land,” Bloomberg said at a press conference today announcing the deal.

Last year, a similar project connected the Harlem Children’s Zone’s Promise Academy charter school and a public housing project planned for the St. Nicholas Houses in Harlem.

The deal was criticized as political because Geoffrey Canada, the founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, has received generous donations from Bloomberg and been a booster of him.

Rich Berlin, the executive director of the program that created DREAM, Harlem RBI, said that his organization has not received any philanthropic gifts from the mayor.

Harlem RBI, a 2o-year-old program that uses baseball and softball to work with young people, created the DREAM charter school in 2008. Last year, Berlin teamed up with Yankees First Baseman Mark Teixeira, who has been raising private funds towards the school construction project.

“It’s been about a year and a half that I’ve been a part of the family, and the first thing Rich Berlin told me was ‘Oh great, Mark, welcome to Harlem RBI. We need to raise twenty million dollars,'” Teixeira said at the press conference today. He has so far raised a little over $10 million, he said.

The Department of Education will own the building when construction is complete in 2014 and will rent the space out to Harlem RBI for one dollar a year.

Announcing last year’s deal with the Harlem Children’s Zone, officials said that building on a public lot was actually more expensive than building on a private one.

Berlin said that the opposite is true in this case. “Unlike the HCZ project, our land does not have to be rezoned to be built upon, and we don’t have to work our way around anything,” Berlin said. “The cost of the land is significantly less expensive than it would be to simply buy a private parcel.”

Berlin said that he wants the residents of the Washington Houses, the public housing project that will expand by 90 apartments, to receive preference in applying to send their children to the school. “We will ask for a carve-out that allows for 50 percent of the seats to be a separate lottery for NYCHA residents in that district, with an even greater preference for Washington Houses residents,” Berlin said.

Currently, 60 percent of the charter’s students are NYCHA residents, and the majority of those students come from the Washington Houses, he said.

Speaking before the press conference, Eve Covalito, the principal of DREAM charter, said that her school is more than ready for the expansion. “It feels tight,” she said, “and it will feel tighter next year.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.