Voice Charter School of New York
QUEENS NY 11106 Map
Voice Charter School of New York
Every day starts with music at Voice Charter School. At 8 a.m. sharp, students cluster in the front hallway for an “all-school sing” led by one of the school’s four music teachers. “The songs allow us to start the day with some serenity and joy,” said Principal Franklin Headley, who founded the school in 2008 with kindergarten and 1st-grade classes. He plans to add a grade each year until the school serves K-8. Class size is 25 or 26.
Every student gets three music classes a day. Beginning in kindergarten, they learn singing skills, and by 3rd grade they are expected to read music and play the piano and recorder. The day is also packed with music instruction. Teachers are trained in the Kodály and Orff methods, European approaches specially designed to appeal to children.
The school uses a mix of charter-minted classroom-management techniques (“Eyes on me” was a frequent refrain) often laced with music references (“Show me how a good audience member sits”). The teaching methods are progressive, and the school relies on the Teachers College Reading and Writing Projects to help children write creative, imaginative essays.
Many students arrive by 7:30 a.m. and finish at 4:30 p.m. The long school day can be tiring for younger children, particularly because Voice Charter students must eat lunch very early to accommodate students at PS 111, a K-8 school, with whom it shares a cafeteria Headley says the two schools have a good relationship—also sharing a playground, gym, and other facilities. There is not enough space in the PS 111 building for the growing school, however, so grades 2, 4 and 5 moved into the vacant St. Rita's Catholic school two blocks away in 2011. That building is shared with the Academy of the City Charter School.
Strict attention is also paid to academic progress. Parents are quickly told if their students are falling behind. “We issue a lot of ‘promotion in doubt’ in 1st grade,” Headley says. He emphasized that parents get these letters in January, so students have plenty of time to improve. “It would be a betrayal if in June I told you this.” He added that the school arranges for in-school and after-school help, such as LaGuardia’s College for Children Camps, with the result that few children are held back. Discipline issues are also handled carefully, he said. “I have never expelled anyone. It’s not part of what we do.”
The parents at Voice Charter seem to be enthusiastic. A mid-morning PTA meeting brought out more than 45 parents of varying backgrounds. Most serve on at least one of the PTA’s 14 committees. Many said the rich music and art programs were the big attraction. But they were also appreciative of the school’s attitude toward parents. “Única,” (unique) said Carmen Armijos, in Spanish. Her children used to go to a nearby school, she said through a translator. “The attention as a parent was very different. There was a line. You cannot cross that line.” Principal Headley, she added, “pays attention to every detail. We can count on him. He never says no.”
Special Education: Headley says 17-18 percent of the school is receiving special education services, depending on the grade level. They use Collaborative Team Teaching. It was hard to tell which teacher was the special education teacher because the two worked so well together.
Admissions: Lottery, with preference to District 30. (Kim Nauer, April 2011; location updated October 2012)