Jonas Bronck Academy
BRONX NY 10458 Map
Jonas Bronck Academy
Jonas Bronck Academy, housed in a new building opposite Fordham University, offers challenging academics for strong students as well as lots of extra help for children those who are learning English or receiving special education services. With a class size of 22 to 24 and two teachers (one of whom is certified in special education) in most classes, children get the individual attention they need.
On our visit, students seemed happy, well-behaved, and eager to participate in class. Their work was surprisingly advanced: for example, seventh graders were doing science reports on the different systems of the body, and used the Internet to do research on “gastroenterology” and “lymphatic system” diseases. The quality of writing we saw was good. The school tries not to focus on performance and measurement, but rather encourages students to think about what they are learning and why it’s important, said principal Donalda Chumney.
Chumney, who became principal in 2008, has worked aggressively to shift the culture of the school away from its reputation as relaxed and "feel good," and towards a more professional, high-achieving environment with strong support for students who need it. As a result, there has been some staff turnover as Chumney eased out some teachers she felt to be inadequate and lost others who disagreed with the new direction of the school. The teachers we spoke to were uniformly enthusiastic, and the DOE surveys of parents and teachers shows strong support for her. Parents and teachers told us that communication among administration, teachers and parents is excellent. Teachers said Chumney knows every student and is eager to offer assistance wherever anyone asks her. Attendance is high, and the principal says it is rare for a student to miss more than two days a year. Parents say they feel welcome. We visited the school during “International heritage month” when parents share favorite recipes and tell stories from their childhood.
Students, who are called “scholars,” wear a uniform of khakis and blue polo shirts. Walls are decorated with bright bulletin boards showing off samples of student work. The academic program is flexible: For example, if a class needs extra help with math, more time in the day is scheduled for math. A significant amount of time is spent on silent reading: in morning advisory, to English class, and the library. Students are expected to write 25 book reports a year. The school offers Regents-level courses in algebra, English and Living Environment. Students meet in small group advisories at the beginning and end of each day to discuss issues such as bullying and to learn how to plan their time.
Special education: The school offers collaborative team teaching classrooms to special education students. We saw teachers working individually with special needs students, particularly during silent reading times.
Admissions: Residents of Districts 9 and 10 are eligible for admission. Attendance at an information session, school tour, open house or middle school fair is encouraged. (Tom Jacobs, December 2010)