Concerns over proposed charter school

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Community leaders are bracing for a possible fight over a proposed charter high school for Morris Park-Van Nest.

The school, to be named the Canvas Academy, will be designed for students in foster care, teen parents and over-aged and under-credited students.

The proposal is just in it early stages.

Founder Erika Newsome said she chose Community Education Council 11 because most borough charter schools are concentrated in the South Bronx.

Newsome, who is a local resident, said she wants to serve her local community. Newsome said she hopes to open the school by the fall of 2015.

But some community leaders are skeptical that the school would benefit the local area.

“It’s not something we want, any more charter schools in our community,” said Al D’Angelo, vice chair of Community Board 11. “They’re not serving the community they reside in.”

D’Angelo pointed to the lottery system charter schools use to accept applications. That means the Canvas Academy could be filled with students from outside CEC 11, which covers a major swath of the east Bronx roughly from Morris Park north to the county line.

Unlike many other charter schools that use mass solicitation to recruit students, Newsome said the Canvas Academy would specifically recruit from local middle and high schools.

But Diane Norris, chair of Community Board 11’s education committee, said of the recruiting plan that “I’m sure other people will apply.”

Bernadette Ferrara, vice president of the Van Nest Neighborhood Association, doesn’t believe that the students targeted for the school would come from Morris Park and surrounding areas.

“And if they are coming from our community,” Ferrara added, “I’d like to see the data.”

But Newsome said that through her involvement in local schools as a PTA president she has personally encountered 10-15 students from the community who would have benefited from the Canvas Academy’s mission.

She said she is sure the school could find a hundred students in need through recruitment.

The school would have 100 attendees the first year, and a maximum of 200 going forward.

“These students are here, why are we going to make them go to the other side of the Bronx?” she asked.

Newsome plans to reach out to principals of local high schools and middle schools to help show this type of school is needed in the area.

In addition to class work, the school will also require community service and work experience, so that graduating students are ready for a job if they aren’t ready for college.

Board 11’s Norris expressed frustration that Newsome didn’t go with her proposal straight to her committee, the community board, and the community education council, instead holding a small public forum that was not well publicized. Norris said she suggested to Newsome that she present her case directly to the board.

Newsome said that attendees at the meeting seemed open to listening and learning, whether or not the students would be from their neighborhoods.

She said she was glad to be invited to the community board meeting, and understands that local leaders want assurances that the school will be supporting the community.

“At least they’re open to hearing more.”

Reach reporter Jaime Williams at (718) 742–3383. Email her at
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