The nation’s first specialty high school for basketball, but not for the playing of the game of the game, celebrated its inaugural freshman class of 110 boys and girls of color with a ceremonial ribbon cutting; it was announced on Oct. 6 by Dr. Kern Mojica, the charter’s head of school. The Earl Monroe New Renaissance Basketball School opened its doors on Aug. 30, marking the culmination of an eight-year effort. The school was founded by Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Dan Klores, who was joined by Monroe, the legendary NBA Hall of Famer who helped to lead the New York Knicks to their last championship in 1972-73. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., addressed the students during the proceedings.
According to Monroe, “what is so novel and creative about our mission, which will ultimately house 440 girls and boys by their senior year, is that in addition to all of the required New York State core curriculum, we are ‘marrying passion with opportunity.’ We are opening the doors for high school children, all from diverse households, so their dreams can become real. There is no higher purpose in life.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, “with a revolutionary approach to education, Dan Klores and Earl Monroe are providing life-changing opportunities for young people through basketball. Their new school will give students the resources they need to develop life-long learning skills and pursue careers related to the game.”
In addition to the core curriculum and the specialty areas, the school is centered on the following creative and progressive services and programs:
- No more than 20 students in a classroom.
- An in-house Director of Mentoring, in which every child is matched one-on-one with a mentor from the private sector.
- A fulltime in-house staff of trained MSWs for families and students.
- Adult literary classes two evenings per week.
- Year two, a full-time college and career counselor.
- Year three, a guaranteed internship/job placement program for all juniors.
- Two special needs full-time faculty members.
- The Ben Jobe Scholarship Fund, to assist with college tuitions.
- Fully wired classrooms.
- A “Teacher-in-Residency” program, in which we train new teachers for a full year, beginning year two.
The school was the goal of Klores when he founded an earlier not for profit eight years ago, the New Rens Basketball Association, for inner city kids throughout the tri-state area, grades three through 11. “The RENS,” headed by Andy Borman, who will serve as the school’s athletic director, has been a teaching tool for all of us,” Klores said. “We have placed 99% of our oldest kids in colleges, on scholarships, tutored them one-on-one at their homes, and we started the nation’s first orange emblem anti-gun violence campaign as an educational, activists, socio-political tool. Without these experiences and lessons, there wouldn’t be a school.”
“We wanted to be in the South Bronx from the beginning,” Monroe said. “It’s a community and borough that has vibrancy. We wanted to be part of that. We felt we could and can be an anchor tenant, helping to spur development and investment.”
The curriculum for the school was designed by Dr. John Russell, the longtime head of the Windward School, and his associate, Betsy MacDermott-Duffy, in conjunction with Mojica and his staff. For the core curriculum components, Russell and the school’s faculty worked with New Visions, an educational umbrella organization.
Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president, has supported the school from the start.
“Education and basketball are two things, I am passionate about and to see a school which has placed both together in tandem will hopefully set a trend to show that we can incorporate learning while chasing your passion, and also setting our youth up for careers in different fields,” he said.
The school has received gifts totaling $4.7 million from an impressive group of founding donors including Nike, Citibank, the Gates Foundation, The Charter School Growth Fund, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Hobson Lucas Family Foundation, the prominent media tycoon Bill Simmons and numerous trustees and advisors.
“What we are so proud of,” said Aaron Saperstein, the treasurer of the trustees and an executive director at Morgan Stanley, “is that we have 100% buy-in from all 75 of us … it doesn’t matter if one gave $20 or $150,000, when we act together, it’s a statement and lesson which can be taught to our students … togetherness is stronger than being alone.”
The Earl Monroe New Renaissance Basketball School will be housed in a temporary site at Our Lady of the Assumption Church at 1617 Parkview Ave., in the Bronx.
Construction for its permanent home, a 60,000-square-foot, five-story building in the Mott Haven section is set to begin during the winter, and open no later than August 2024.