Co-Location Cooperation

As city revamps space-sharing rules, Fariña finds two principals embracing co-location

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Chancellor Carmen Fariña met with the principals of two co-located Staten Island middle schools on Monday: Linda Hill of I.S. 49 and Jermaine Cameron (right), of the Eagle Academy For Young Men of Staten Island.

When the city last fall proposed moving a new all-boys middle school into the same Staten Island building as I.S. 49, a large existing middle school in the community, scores of parents and students flocked to a public hearing to oppose the plan.

They fretted that the new public school, Eagle Academy For Young Men of Staten Island, would siphon resources from I.S. 49, cause overcrowding, and create safety hazards, according to the city’s summary of the meeting.

A year later, the new school has just opened inside I.S. 49’s building. But the community’s fears about the co-location have not come to pass, at least according to the schools’ principals, who met with Chancellor Carmen Fariña Monday when she stopped by for a visit.

Instead, the school leaders said they have worked closely together, agreeing to share facilities and even faculty members, in an example of the kind of cooperation that Fariña says the city will try to foster with a new set of space-sharing policies that she has promised to announce soon.

“This is a great co-located site,” Fariña said Monday. She added that the new policies will encourage other schools in shared buildings to do what I.S. 49 and Eagle Academy have started to do: “work together, share resources, talk to each other politely.”

Soon after taking office, Mayor Bill de Blasio allowed dozens of co-locations approved in the final weeks of the Bloomberg administration to move forward, upsetting many people who opposed the plans and had counted on de Blasio to reverse them.

But as a concession, City Hall and the education department promised a number of reforms to the space-sharing process. Those included school walkthroughs by department officials when new co-locations are being considered, more public hearings before final co-location votes, and “campus squads” that will be dispatched to buildings with co-located schools to help resolve disputes.

The city also formed two space-related advisory groups with members from a variety of backgrounds: one group was to review the way the city calculates the amount of free space in school buildings, while the other was to propose ways that co-located schools can “better grow alongside one another,” as a City Hall announcement put it in March.

Fariña toured the Eagle Academy For Young Men of Staten Island, a new middle school housed in the same building at I.S. 49.
PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Fariña toured the Eagle Academy For Young Men of Staten Island, a new middle school housed in the same building at I.S. 49.

The first group has already made some recommendations that apparently factored into the city’s latest school-space tallies. But the city has yet to announce any new space-sharing policies stemming from the second working group, which Fariña is helping lead and was tasked with suggesting ways that schools in the same building can more effectively share facilities, work with parents, and anticipate problems.

Last week, however, de Blasio said that he will soon unveil new guidelines for the most contentious type of co-locations — those that move charter schools into traditional-school buildings. After her tour of Eagle Academy on Monday, Fariña would not reveal what other new space-sharing policies her department has in the works, other than to say that they are aimed at spurring “some of the things you saw here today.”

The two Staten Island middle schools have found several ways to make the most of their joint placement, according to Eagle Academy Principal Jermaine Cameron and Linda Hill, principal of I.S. 49. (That school has struggled with student violence in the past, though the state this year removed it from its list of the most dangerous schools.)

The principals began working together in March, as soon as Cameron was hired, they said. Last week, they organized a common back-to-school meeting where their teachers met one another and planned procedures for the first day of school. Hill has also agreed to share her school’s new science lab with Cameron’s school, along with a teacher who works with non-native English speakers at I.S. 49, since Eagle Academy still has too few students to hire its own.

Meanwhile, a veteran I.S. 49 educator is mentoring Eagle Academy’s new physical education teacher, and Hill is letting Cameron in on some of the strategies she’s picked up during her decade as a principal (this is Cameron’s first year leading a school). Already, she’s given him a rundown of the neighborhood and the best way to work with local parents, the two said.

“The level of experience that Linda has is tremendous,” Cameron said. “She is a resource for me, as are her teachers for my teachers.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.