Posts tagged "opportunity charter school"
May 31, 2012
Months after fighting to stay open, a troubled Harlem charter school has secured a long-term future after the Department of Education recommended that it receive the longest-possible charter renewal.
Last fall, Opportunity Charter School was one of six charter schools whose performance landed them on the city’s short-list for closure. Now the city is locked in legal battles to shutter two of schools, Peninsula Preparatory Academy and Williamsburg Charter High School. But Opportunity is set to keep its doors open until at least 2017.
It’s good news for Opportunity, a middle and high school that has had its share of performance and management troubles in recent years. The Harlem school stands apart from many charter schools because it serves older students and maintains an even balance of students with disabilities and students who do not require special education services.
“Opportunity Charter is incredibly pleased to have been recognized by the city for all the hard work we do,” said Principal Marya Baker while chaperoning the school’s prom in the Bronx last Friday. “I think that we’re finally being recognized for being successful for a model that is incredibly difficult and something we feel we do very well — that is, having an inclusive setting for 50 percent of our students who have special needs.”
The about-face is especially remarkable because the city recommended a shortened charter renewal for Opportunity in January. Short-term renewals are given when a charter school has failed to fulfill performance promises but is considered capable of improvement. Opportunity got one in 2010. (more…)
December 8, 2011
The six charter schools the Department of Education deemed so weak that they could be closed won’t be shuttered — for now.
But the department put a seventh school, New York French American Charter School, on probation for what it said were “serious violations” of state law and its own charter that could have left students unsafe.
The notice of probation sent by the DOE’s Charter Schools Office to NYFACS’s board yesterday lists concerns about the school’s financial stability, discipline procedures, teacher certification, academic instruction, and safety practices. It notes that the school is already late in producing audited financial statements for the last year.
“The school has no established financial controls and operational policies; the termination of one Operations Director and the hiring of a replacement has left the school in operational disarray,” reads the report, which also notes that the school has few books and that a parent volunteer with keys to the building had reportedly taken to sleeping in the school overnight. (more…)
November 22, 2011
For months, Opportunity Charter School CEO Leonard Goldberg fought to keep the teachers union out of his school. On Monday, he welcomed them into his auditorium with open arms.
At a public hearing to discuss the school’s future Monday evening, United Federation of Teachers Vice President Leo Casey and other UFT officials joined Goldberg and his newly unionized staff to push back against the possibility that Opportunity could be closed. The school’s charter is up for renewal this year and the city has cited it as one of six charter schools whose performance is so weak that they could lose their right to operate.
The partnership between the school’s leadership and the union would have seemed inconceivable just a couple of months ago when the two sides were locked in a legal battle over whether the school’s teachers should be able to join the UFT.
Union officials and teachers accused Goldberg of retaliation after he fired more than a dozen teachers shortly after they voted to unionize at the school in March. Goldberg refused to acknowledge the teachers’ union vote, prompting a hearing with the state’s Public Employee Relations Board, which eventually ruled that the teachers could use the UFT as their bargaining agent. The union has also filed a grievance over the firings.
All of that was apparently water under the bridge during Monday night’s meeting, which two officials from the DOE’s charter schools office attended. Goldberg said he was happy to have the union’s support and UFT officials said the school should stay open. (more…)
October 5, 2011
Yet another charter school is on the path to unionization after a majority of its teachers voted to seek representation from the United Federation of Teachers.
Teachers at Fahari Academy Charter School, a third-year school in Crown Heights that currently serves fifth through seventh grades, announced the vote in a press release today. They said they hoped the decision would “help foster a positive school culture.”
“The union is vital for Fahari,” teacher Jeffrey Embleton said in the release. “Having union recognition will give us the voice we need to best serve our students.”
Fahari had its charter authorized by the Department of Education in 2008 and opened its doors in 2009. In its inaugural report card, released last month, the school received a D, including an F on the student progress component. In April, the New York Post reported that the school was trying to expel a student with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder for offenses such as name-calling and roughhousing.
The staff notified the school’s executive director, Catina Venning, of their vote in a letter today. At the same time, the UFT has begun the legal process that will allow the union to negotiate as a third-party bargaining unit for a contract for Fahari teachers. (more…)
August 31, 2011
Disgruntled teachers at Opportunity Charter School won their bid to unionize last week after a state agency approved the United Federation of Teachers to represent them.
A ruling by the Public Employment Relations Board dated Aug. 26 officially certified the union to serve as “exclusive negotiating agent” for Opportunity’s teachers, paving the way for the UFT to assume all collective bargaining rights on behalf of its employees.
With the ruling, the UFT now represents 13 New York City charter schools.
The decision comes nearly four months after teachers held a secret “card check,” during which a majority of teachers signed authorization cards stating that they wished to be represented by a union. Administrators refused to recognize the results within 30 days, setting up the official hearing process through PERB, which began in June.
In reviewing the union vote cards, PERB threw out nearly a third of votes that belonged to teachers who were no longer employed at Opportunity, according to a UFT official. That includes more than a dozen teachers who were abruptly fired at the end of the school year. (more…)
August 11, 2011
Despite our ongoing attempt to streamline the mountain of information that came with the state’s release of the 2010-2011 test scores, there are still plenty of takeaways that haven’t been said on a press release or at a press conference. After taking a slightly deeper look at the data, here are 10 worthwhile bulletins to consider:
- Some of the neediest students took a step back; others showed progress. Students who are identified as English Language Learners, or ELL, improved slightly in math, but took another step back from statistical gains they made on the english test (ELA) earlier in the decade. While nearly half of the city’s non-ELL students met the state’s ELA standards, just 12 percent ELL students did so. That’s down from 34 percent two years ago, when the standards were easier and 1 percent drop from a year ago. The ELL students improved slightly in math. Special education students improved in both ELA and math.
- The achievement gap remains vast. Schools in poor neighborhoods still struggle the most. In the South Bronx — one of the nation’s poorest congressional districts — and central Brooklyn, average proficiency rates were below 30 percent in ELA and below 40 percent in math. (Citywide rates were 57 percent in math; 44 percent in ELA). In the city’s more affluent neighborhoods, like Bayside, the Upper West Side and lower Manhattan, scores hovered at significantly higher rates. District 26 in Queens topped out in both subjects, with 74 percent proficiency in reading and 88 percent proficiency in math.
- New doesn’t always mean better. More than a dozen schools in their first year of testing spanned both extremes of the performance spectrum. Half of them, including The Active Learning Elementary School, whose entire 20-student third grade class was perfectly proficient, significantly outperformed other schools in their districts. But many others struggled just as much as the closed schools that they were supposed to replace. In four such schools, less than a quarter of students did not meet reading standards. Just 5.8 percent of students at one school, Urban Scholars Community School, were proficient in reading.
- Charter schools outperformed their neighbors, mostly. Citywide, 69 percent of students in charter schools met standards in math, up from 63 percent last year. In ELA, 45 percent were proficient, up from 43 percent last year. Both beat citywide averages. Nearly 75 percent of the charter school classes that took a state exam scored better than their districts, on average. (more…)
July 13, 2011
For the first time since more than a dozen of their colleagues were abruptly fired last month, current teachers at Opportunity Charter School spoke publicly about the administration’s response to their efforts to join the United Federation of Teachers.
A small group of the teachers joined UFT organizers outside of the school in Harlem this afternoon, carried signs and distributed fliers to passersby. They said the schools used a draconian lateness policy as cover to terminate teachers who voted to unionize earlier in the year.
Of the 15 staff members whose contracts were terminated last month, all but one voted pro-union.
The firings had a chilling effect on staff morale, said Jennifer Mitchell, a fourth year teacher.
“People don’t feel safe here. They don’t feel appreciated,” she said.
Mitchell, one of the longest-tenured teachers at the school, which opened in 2004, said the school had drifted from its founding mission to serve high need students.
“The school has changed dramatically since I started,” she said. “Now I feel like I work for a company, not a school.” (more…)
July 12, 2011
Earlier this year, a small group of determined teachers at Opportunity Charter School marched into Leonard Goldberg’s office and confronted their boss.
They carried a letter that detailed their complaints with Goldberg’s response to their recent bid to unionize. Not only had Goldberg refused to recognize the staff’s vote to join the United Federation of Teachers, they said, he had begun waging an anti-union email campaign.
Goldberg, the school’s CEO, declined the letter and ordered them to leave, according to a teacher present at the meeting.
“He was screaming and yelling,” said the teacher. “He said ‘You’re not welcome in here,’ and threw us out of the office.”
By the end of the school year, that teacher and 13 of her pro-union colleagues – as well as one who opposed the union – were notified that their contracts would not be renewed. Five, including the teacher who described the Goldberg meeting, were members of the organizing committee that steered the union vote.
The school says it is a coincidence, but former teachers and union organizers believe the firings were calculated retaliation. They say Goldberg’s behavior in his office and his emails are just examples of his antagonistic attitude toward his teachers’ attempt to unionize.
“Opportunity Charter School has taken a negative stance since day one of the staff forming a union,” said UFT charter school representative Miles Trager, who met personally with Goldberg. “The firings further confirm their intention of quelling teacher voice at the school. ” (more…)
May 13, 2011
Another charter school’s teachers have voted to join the city teachers union, bringing the number of charter schools represented by the union to 15. Teachers at Opportunity Charter School in Harlem, which serves a unique blend of special education and general education students, made their announcement through the United Federation of Teachers today.
The union has been actively recruiting charter school educators to join its ranks for several years, part of a strategy to embrace charter schools into the union fold.
Some schools’ management teams — including the prominent KIPP schools’ New York branch — have resisted the idea, arguing that the absence of union representation is a key tool that helps charter schools have more flexibility over hiring and firing.
Opportunity struggled to get its charter renewed after posting disappointing student test score results. City officials who authorize the school finally recommended a renewal on a shortened two-year timeline, adding a list of steps the school must take as conditions. The state approved that proposal last July. The renewal lasts through June 2012.
A year ago, investigators accused teachers at Opportunity of abusing unruly students. The school’s city authorizer officials said concerns about abuse had alleviated since the report was released.
UPDATE: In a statement, Opportunity CEO Leonard Goldberg and board chairman Philip Pallone said, ”We have received notification from the UFT and are in the process of reviewing it.”
Here’s the union’s press release: (more…)
August 6, 2010
Schools that screen come out on top and schools that take neighborhood students fall to the bottom of our next rankings installment, which tackles middle schools.
A few charter schools are also in the mix — both on the top and bottom lists. Unlike our elementary school list, we included charter schools in these rankings.
To generate the rankings, we averaged the percentage of students who scored proficient across all the tested grade levels. (We excluded schools that don’t include grades six, seven, and eight.) In response to reader requests, we also listed the borough of the school in parentheses after each one.
The results contain very few surprises. All of the schools on the top-scoring lists except the two charter schools have a selective admissions process. Students must score high on standardized tests and sometimes pass in-person interviews in order to get into schools like Anderson, NEST+m, and Mark Twain Middle School — all of which rank high on these lists. (more…)