Brooklyn Charter School
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Dance, small classes, longer school day
Attendance could be better
Tiny Brooklyn Charter School offers small classes with only 20 children, a longer school day and a rare option of busing for kids who live outside the district. A hallmark here is the music and dance program. The music room is equipped with keyboards and drums. The dance studio has mirrors and a tap floor that's a gift from actor Tony Danza. Children sample ballet, modern, Afro-Caribbean and Latin dance styles.
Students gather for monthly assemblies to sing, dance and celebrate birthdays, gatherings that are called “harambee,” which means "all pull together" in Swahili. Grades 4 and 5 take physical education, but the lower grades replace gym with dance several times a week. In May, the school ropes off the block and invites the neighborhood to a festival featuring song, food and dance.
Since 2016, the school has been under the leadership of Joanne Hunt, formerly principal of Harbor Science and Arts Charter in Harlem for 13 years. A Flatbush native, she is happy to return to Brooklyn, and is a well-respected leader, according to school surveys.
At BCS, Hunt brought in a math coach, resulting in higher math test scores at the end of her first year. She works with two deans to try to instill a peaceful, happy atmosphere. This has helped stem a pattern of high teacher turnover. In Hunt’s first year, she started with 20 new teachers out of 45; in her second year, she had only three new teachers.
“My area is organizational effectiveness and how you get faculty members to work together,” she says. School surveys show trust has improved among faculty.
Opened in 2000, Brooklyn Charter moved to the third floor of PS 23 in 2004; it was the first charter in the city to share a building with a district school. It is across the street from the Marcy Houses, near several homeless shelters, and on the border of an area with rising rents and expensive coffee shops.
The school is unusual in that it buses almost 100 students from East New York, Flatbush, Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, a perk leftover from when the school moved to PS 23 and wanted to retain students from their former location. “We are the only charter school still afforded this luxury,” Hunt says. The downside is that the distance kids travel affects attendance; when the weather is poor, some children in the lower school miss too many days of school.
The parent-teacher association runs an after-school program for a small fee Mondays through Thursdays. “It’s what our working families really need,” Hunt says.
ADMISSIONS: A lottery is held in April. Priority is given to siblings and residents of District 14. Families may apply on the school website. The school fills spaces in upper grades that open up, unlike some charters. (Lydie Raschka, phone interview, January 2018)Read more