Co-Location Cooperation

Three delayed co-locations approved after Fariña reins in concerns

PHOTO: Brian Charles
Chancellor Carmen Fariña listens to community members weigh in co-location proposals at the Feb. 25 Panel for Educational Policy meeting.

Three space-sharing plans got the green light Wednesday after their decisions were delayed last month, though not before a debate about how to make sure the co-locations wouldn’t get in the way of the city’s efforts to turn around struggling schools.

At issue were whether three of the co-locations could undermine the city’s “School Renewal” program, an initiative that involves outside social-service groups partnering with the city’s lowest-performing schools to offer services like job counseling and mental health services. The schools would be moving into or expanding in buildings shared by a school in that program, which are only just beginning to determine what services they will provide.

“I am worried overall, that if we continue co-locations with Renewal schools we are threatening — if not jeopardizing — that the community schools will develop the programming that they need and have the space to actually house it,” panel member Norm Fruchter said during Wednesday’s meeting.

In response, Chancellor Carmen Fariña said that the city’s community-schools program will be “state-of-mind focused and not room-focused,” and that most important aspect of the programs will be how they are integrated into the school day. The chancellor added that community programs could offer extra benefits when housed in shared buildings, where it would be easy for services to “spill over” to co-located schools.

Before the meeting, the city also added language to the proposals allowing negotiations about specific spaces in the school to continue as the community-schools plans were finalized.

“I say to PEP, do what you need to do, but I’m committed to making this work,” Fariña said before panel members voted on co-locations for Achievement First University Prep, Young Women’s Leadership School of the Bronx, and Success Academy Bed-Stuy I, which was adding a fifth grade.

Those three proposals, and another five co-location plans, were approved.

Last month, Fariña had surprised parent advocates by calling to delay the votes on four proposals, saying that officials needed more time to consider community feedback. The announcement came after hundreds of parents, community members and elected officials wrote letters, made phone calls and attended public hearings to voice concerns over the plans, which also eroded support for a few of the plans among panel members themselves.

Some of the principals involved in the delayed co-locations said Wednesday they had gotten more attention from city officials over the previous month, and were prepared to work together. In two cases, Fariña praised the principals for collaborating and said she was personally committed to ensuring the schools have the resources to make the co-location work.

“If anything, you’ll get more than what you would have if you hadn’t collaborated,” she told them.

The meeting offered partial answers to two crucial questions: Would the de Blasio administration be able to improve the process of deciding on co-locations? And would the city succeed at convincing panel members — some of whom had fought co-location proposals as activists in the past — to go along with proposals, even when the schools involved remain less than thrilled?

On Thursday, Fruchter attributed the new agreement to a significant outreach effort.

“There was very clearly a lot of dissatisfaction and concerns on the part of elected officials,” he said of January’s meeting. “I think what the chancellor did was meet with all the elected officials and meet with the schools, and what that produced was a lot of agreements. It didn’t mollify all of the schools impacted, but it went a long way to reduce concerns.”

Still, the city hasn’t overcome all of the issues raised by January’s proposals. One of the four proposals, which would put Academic Leadership Charter School on the fifth floor of P.S. 277, a 118-year-old building in the South Bronx, is still not on the panel’s future agenda, though officials have said all of the proposals would be decided on by March.

P.S. 277 is considered by some PEP members too crowded to even consider accommodating another school. But pressure remains, given the state law that forces the city to either find public school space or pick up the tab for charter schools to operate in private space if they are new or adding grades.

“There were a bunch of us that were concerned that while the school had some extra space there was not enough to put another school there,” Laura Zingmond, who was appointed to the PEP by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, said earlier this week. “There are hallways so narrow that when you extend your arms out you can touch both walls.”

“There was a general consensus that this was the wrong mix,” panel member Robert Powell said.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

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.”