The Equality Charter School
Bronx NY 10475
Internships and strong student support
Two locations, both far from the subway
Founded in 2009, Equality Charter is a solid, well-run choice for middle and high school students in the northeastern section of the Bronx. The school ably serves many children with disabilities who make up one-fifth of the population. Equality offers all-girls and all-boys leadership groups as well as a social skills group for introverts. Some children take on internships outside school, including work as dental assistants, in pediatrics or in TV work, and others may apply to work as paid tutors in school.
The middle school is located in sprawling Co-op Citythe largest cooperative housing development in the worldin a building shared with PS 160 and a program for children with disabilities. The high school is four miles south in Castle Hill. More than 80 percent of Equality's eighth graders choose to attend the high school.
Attendance is good at Equality and class size is small. Children are greeted every morning by the deans, who ask how they are doing and monitor breakfast for a smooth start to the day. "We play counselor, father, foster parent, coach, " said a dean.
Founder and director Caitlin Franco said the school prides itself on working with even the most challenging students. "We don't give up on any kids," she said. Adults serve as mentors to individuals and children meet in advisory groups four times a week, to prepare for college and discuss issues such as how to give peers feedback with honesty and tact.One period of advisory is reserved for typing practice but this practice seemed ineffectual since the majority of the students pecked at keys with one finger during a timed exercise.
At both locations we saw teachers present their subject matter via lecture, slideshow or power point. Children politely engaged in teacher-led discussions, using phrases such as, "I agree with ___, and would like to add__." The instruction "is traditional in the sense of some of our academics and approaches," Franco said, distinguishing Equality from more progressive, project-based schools. Yet we saw some group activities, too, and engaging lessons, for example, 8th graders watched a film about Abraham Lincoln's assassination, and an English teacher read a passage aloud from To Kill a Mockingbird, first asking students to close their eyes so they could picture a dramatic scene.
Franco wants children to find their passion at Equality Charter but also to leave with job-related skills. "We seek to serve the community in which we are. Some kids will go straight into the world of work," she said. Yet opportunities are there for motivated students. An 11th grader secured an internship in pediatrics at Jacobi Hospital and sits in on classes for new parents. In the Peer-to-Peer program, older students are paid to tutor younger ones during a "support and enrichment" period at the end of the school day.
There are advanced math classes in middle and high school. Electives include physical education, art and life/literacy. A Spanish-speaking art teacher designed a class called "Spart," combining Spanish and art. Clubs change depending on interest but may include chess, debate, Chinese, theology or robotics.
Middle school principal Amanda Huza is a Bronx native who has taught English language arts and social studies. High school principal Favrol Philemy was assistant principal under Franco. Both principals are approachable and respected within the Equality community.
There is limited access to the gymnasium in the middle school. The teacher leads dance, calisthenics and sprints in the hallway or takes kids outside to play ultimate Frisbee, team handball or other games.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: ICT (integrated co-teaching) in all classes and small group instruction as needed.
ADMISSIONS: A lottery is held in April. The middle school is located at 4140 Hutchinson River Parkway East, Bronx, NY 10475 in Co-op City. Preference goes to District 11 students. The high school opened in 2014 in a former Catholic school and is located at 2141 Seward Avenue, Bronx, NY 10473. Preference for high school goes to continuing Equality Charter students and to District 8 students. ECS fills any seats that become available in 9th through 12th grade. (Lydie Raschka, December 2016)