October 5, 2011
Addressing city principals and business leaders this morning, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said pro bono partnerships between schools and local businesses could alleviate some of the pressures of mounting budget cuts.
Walcott was speaking at a breakfast event held to celebrate more than 300 school-business partnerships that have been created through the PENCIL program, and to announce plans to expand the partnerships to twice as many public schools this year.
PENCIL, a non-profit founded in 1995, facilitates relationships between principals and local business leaders, who offer schools free consulting and guidance to boost student achievement through field trips, internships and school-based projects, according to organizers.
“These leaders can meet principals around their specific needs,” Walcott said. “One of the principals said she was doing something and her corporate partner said, ‘there’s a better way you can do it.’ That’s the type of value these partners are adding to the system.”
Talana Bradley, principal of the Young Women’s Leadership School of Brooklyn, said her school’s partnership, Jayun Kim, a business consultant, has helped her develop a long-term strategic plan for the growth of her school, which was founded in 2008, and plan for coming budget cuts.
“There’s never enough money. I’m so upset that they’re going to continue making cuts,” she said to the audience. (“So am I!” Walcott called back from his seat.) “It’s hard to stay motivated. What this partnership does is help us see the forest for the trees.”
Steve Altman, an attorney, has been partnering with M.S. 22 in the Bronx for three years. There, he encourages 6th-grade students to complete homework on time by providing students who finish their assignments with regular pizza lunches and two field trips each year. He asks clients and friends of his to lead the lunches and talk to students about ways they stay on-task with their work assignments at home.
Altman said he was initially skeptical of how much value he could actually contribute to the school, which has been struggling with student performance and was identified by the state as a low-achieving school this year: “I’m a lawyer, a businessman. What can I do?” he thought. But, “Teachers have told us that the response is hugely positive.”