Fahari Academy Charter School

Phone: (718) 282-5139
Website: Click here
Admissions: Lottery/District 17 priority
Principal: Stephanie Clagnaz
Neighborhood: East Flatbush
District: 17
Grade range: 05 thru 08

What's special:

Students are involved in school decisions.

The downside:

Teachers struggle to control classrooms.

The InsideStats



Our review

Fahari Academy Charter School aims to empower students while maintaining high college-preparation standards. The importance of this goal is reflected in the Swahili name Fahari, which means pride.

Despite enthusiasm from and efforts by staff to involve everyone in daily student-led morning meetings and a "teacher of the week" award based on student-designed teacher evaluations, the school has a ways to go. On our visit, teachers waited for classes to focus while students passed notes and chatted. In one class, a 6th grader hid under the desk, unnoticed by the teacher. "We have teachers with excellent instructional and content knowledge who are very weak in discipline and classroom management," explained the school's first Executive Director Catina Venning. She added that the school addresses this problem in professional development sessions.

Venning and many of the founding staff left the school after the 2011-12 school year. A Education Department report on the charter school said her harsh disciplinary tactics took the phrase 'no excuses' too far, according to GothamSchools. Dirk Tillotson succeeded Venning as executive director in the spring of 2012. Tillotson has an extensive background in working with charter schools and is the founder of the New York Charter School Incubator.

Fahari opened in 2009 inside MS 246 Walt Whitman School with a 5th-grade class and plans to add a grade each year until they have grades 5-12. The day runs from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The school has strict expectations: homework is due at 7:20 a.m., no exceptions, and students who miss more than 10 class periods must retake the course in summer school. In order to advance to the next grade, students must earn 75 percent or higher in every class. From 2009 to 2010, many 5th graders who were not promoted left to enter 6th grade at another school.

Students wear uniforms: gray slacks or skirt, a white shirt and optional gray sweater.

Students learn respect and problem solving. "We encourage students to attempt to solve problems on their own but to recognize when they need to go to the teacher," explained social worker Kristen Mercado. We observed teachers struggling between letting students make independent decisions and controlling their classrooms. One teacher tried several different methods to quiet the class but did not give the students an assignment before they got loud again.

The school holds monthly parent meetings, though attendance was lower than expected, with only 15 parents attending in January 2011. There is also an active group of fathers, called Fathers of Fahari, who participate in activities with male students.

After school, students can participate in student council or PRIDE players, a student performance group. Eight students attended the Kingsborough College "College for Kids" to enhance and enrich their education.

Special education: There is one 5th-grade Collaborative Team Teaching class (two teachers are in the classroom together, one of whom is special education certified), and students also receive extra reading help in small groups.

Admissions: A lottery is held in April. Students in District 17 and siblings of enrolled students have priority. (Aryn Bloodworth, February 2011. Updated September 2012.)

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