South Bronx Charter School for International Cultures and the Arts

BRONX NY 10454 Map
Phone: (718) 401-9216
Admissions: Lottery/District 7 priority
Principal: Evelyn Hey
Neighborhood: South Bronx
District: 7
Grade range: 0K thru 05

What's special:

Cozy, homey atmosphere

The downside:

Inexperienced teachers

The InsideStats


Our review

Opened in 2005 with just six classes--three kindergartens and three 1st grades--South Bronx Charter School for International Cultures and the Arts is tucked away on the third floor of a neighborhood public school, PS 49. Principal Evelyn Hey has made a cozy, homey atmosphere with stencils of ivy and flowers on the walls and paintings of grass and trees. "It needs to be a beautiful place for children," said Hey, who was principal of several public schools in the Bronx before retiring and starting a new career with the charter school. Children wear yellow and blue plaid uniforms. Classes run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The school, which has a contract with Victory Schools, a for-profit management company, has a back-to-basics curriculum, with plenty of emphasis on phonics. In a class we visited, children were following along in their textbooks as the teacher read a story called "June and the Mule" designed to teach the long "u" sound. Some children worked on computers, playing a game called "Letter Factory" designed to teach letter recognition. Others played phonics bingo.

In another class, kindergartners were taking a standardized Iowa test designed to assess their reading readiness. "Fill in the circle under the skinny cat," the teacher said, and children filled in a bubble on the machine-graded tests to demonstrate that they understood the word "skinny." The kindergartners seemed confused by the idea of taking a test, because they were used to helping one another out. "The test has begun," the teacher reminded one child. "We aren't sharing no more."

Teacher recruitment and retention were an issue in the school's first year. All of the school's six teachers were new to the profession; one left in January and another was fired. (Teachers are not unionized, and administrators say one of the benefits of a charter school is that teachers who don't work out can be easily fired.) Attendance, too, was a struggle, partly because of the number of children suffering from asthma, Hey said. Long distances also made it more difficult for some children to get to school: About half the children travel by bus from outside the neighborhood.

The school shares a playground with PS 49. Children may go out to play on Tuesday and Thursday. They have gym on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Tuesday and Thursday they study with professionals from the Ballet Hispanico.

English language learners: The school has a "dual language" class taught in both English and Spanish.

Special education: Half a dozen children receive special education services. The school offers physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech, and Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETSS).

Admissions: A lottery is held in April. Priority is given to District 7 residents.(Clara Hemphill, May 2006)

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