Future Leaders Institute Charter School
Share this school
Longer school day and year
Building could use some sprucing up
Future Leaders Institute is a small charter school in Harlem that offers a longer school day and year and serves kindergarten through 8th grade students. It draws Harlem residents from the neighborhood but roughly half the students travel down on subways from the Bronx, often in friendly groups. Students visit the science room a couple times a week for hands-on science activities, such as creating circuits with batteries and wires.
Classrooms have a cozy lived-in look, with lamps, teacher-made learning charts, children’s artwork and book nooks with pillows: the kindergarten room has a loft.
The day begins with morning meeting to set a positive tone. Though the academic portion of the day is long, children take movement breaks and get a “work choice” period, which may consist of dramatic play and blocks for the youngest, and educational games like Connect Four, chess and Uno as kids get bigger.
Test scores have inched up in recent years under the leadership of principal Jody Flowers. Born and raised in Harlem, Flowers attended a gifted and talented program at PS 123 as a child. She has spent the bulk of her education career at Future Leaders, starting in 2006 as a reading teacher and moving on to classroom teaching in grades 3 through 5.
To foster a love of reading at Future Leaders, Flowers has adopted the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University. She scheduled longer blocks of time for reading, writing and math, and teachers now divide up the reading period so children have time to read books on their own, as well as participate in small group instruction. Struggling readers get additional help with a reading specialist and we saw advanced readers working in a small group.
In an 8th grade math class we saw teens enthusiastically doing a project on the concept of functions using paper, scissors and glue. A new Regents Algebra class had a dozen students at the time of our visit and was expected to grow as 5th grade teachers began to prepare their students for the advanced class, Flowers said.
The after school “enrichment” program runs until 4:45 pm for all students in grades K through 5; activities include dance, art, Korean lessons, drumming and chess. Middle school students stay after school twice a week (or more days if they have younger siblings), during which time they work on academic skills or activities such as dance, cooking or yearbook. The school also offers a four-week summer program and Saturday classes.
Suspensions are above the citywide average. Flowers said the school suspends for minor things sometimes to prevent larger incidents later on, in part because it gets parents to come in so the school can communicate with them. “Sometimes we have to resort to that,” Flowers said.
Future Leaders is housed on two floors of a long building shared with Young Diplomat’s Academy. The building is solid and comfortable but feels cluttered and worn in spots with missing floor tiles, utilitarian putty-colored window shades, and wooden coat closets dotted with old Scotch tape markings. Behind the school is a spacious renovated playground with climbing equipment and a track.
ADMISSIONS: Lottery with preference to District 3. Parents should be aware that the school day goes until 4:45 pm. Summer classes are held in the month of July.(Lydie Raschka, November 2019)