Hyde Leadership Charter Elementary and Middle School
Bronx NY 10474
Very involved parents and a focus on character growth
Cramped building with metal detectors
Hyde Leadership insists on strong commitment from everyoneincluding parents, who receive their own report cards and "graduate" alongside their children.
The school is modeled after a private boarding school in Bath, Maine, that is dedicated to character development. Hyde emphasizes the importance of personal growth through frank conversations, self-assessments and reflection.
"I'm a deep believer that young people chart their own course," said Executive Director Tom Sturtevant, a former high school teacher and principal. He came to Hyde in 2014 from the SEED foundation in Washington DC, an organization that works with urban boarding schools.
Parents are required to attend monthly meetings where they reflect on questions like, "What kind of a 6th grader was I?" or "How involved were my parents in my education?" One parent told us that new families sometimes find these expectations a little intimidating, but soon get used to it.
Every child in grades k-8 must pass through metal detectors to enter the building, shared with Hunts Point Middle School. Some classes are in windowless basement rooms, and space is tight. Middle School Principal Lex Zain said, "We use every inch of space in the building." There is a cheerful attitude about this need to get creative.
In the lower grades, there are strict behavioral expectations. Signs in classrooms list "non-negotiable rules," including staying in your seat unless you have permission to move, sitting up straight and keeping your eyes on the speaker. Students are sent home for infractions of the school uniform code such as not wearing a belt, kids told us.
Originally opened as a k-8 school, Hyde expanded to include a high school in 2011.The high school is located in a shiny new building, a few blocks from the lower school. The building is light and welcoming, with comfy corners for students to gather. The space serves as a reward for students who stay at Hyde for high school. Students know what's expected of them, and the vibe is more relaxed.
Staff are friendly throughout Hyde, and relationships between teachers and students are strong. There is a strong sense that everyone is working towards giving the best to "our kids." Across all grades, students seem calm and relaxed. Students are encouraged to speak up about challenges and issues, and can request a "conference" with staff at any time. There are lots of ways students can ask for help if they need it. For example, high school teachers have "office hours" every afternoon from 3 to 4 pm. All 9th-graders go on an overnight retreat, sometimes to the boarding school on which Hyde Leadership was modeled.
Teacher attrition is higher than the city average, a problem for many charter schools that employ young teachers through programs like Teach for America. The school day is also long for teachers, who are often there from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm. One parent told us she sometimes wonders, "When do you go home?" At the high school, Fridays are a half-day, so that teachers have time for planning and training.
Hyde offers Advanced Placement courses in calculus, English, civics and economics, history and science. Special classes include music, visual arts, performing arts, computer science, film and sports literature. "Hyde has a way of getting you into doing stuff," said one senior.
There is a well-organized college office, with several counselors who ensure all students apply to college. Around 90 percent of Hyde graduates go on to college, both locally and to schools in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Virginia.
SPECIAL EDUCATION:Sixteen percent of students have IEPs (individualized education programs), a number that is increasing as more special education students enter in the lower grades. Hyde students with IEPs graduate at much higher rates than the city or district averages. "We are working towards our vision of full inclusion," said Special Education Director Liz Springer. Staff meet with parents of children with IEPs to get to know the student, and "work the system" to get whatever they need. For example, a student could have a paraprofessional, or aide, alongside a completely individualized schedule. The school works with students who have been recommended for District 75 programs. The school has two ICT team-teaching classes per grade, and provides all other required services.
ADMISSIONS: Admission is by lottery, with priority for siblings and residents of District 8. There is a long waitlist. Almost 90 percent of middle school students continue to Hyde Leadership High School. No new students are admitted after 9th grade. (Ella Colley, February 2016)