Friday, February 12, 2016

Applicants envision new charter schools

By Sarina Trangle

The Bronx is unchartered territory.

At least if you let the charter school applicants tell it.

Riverdalians Dita Wolf and Alec Diacou, along with Mary Ellen Sullivan, chair of the College of Mount Saint Vincent’s teacher education department, are in the midst of applying to open non-profit charter schools in the Bronx in fall 2014. All three of their applications describe the borough, and in some cases District 10 — which includes Riverdale and Kingsbridge — as an educationally deficient area that would benefit from the expansion of the publicly funded, but privately run, schools. 

Ms. Wolf, who was principal of PS 7 and has worked in education for 40 years, has applied to open Arturo Toscanini Charter School, an elementary school named after the famed Italian composer who once lived in the Bronx.  The elementary school would serve Bronx neighborhoods from Riverdale to Soundview, while emphasizing the language, culture and history of Italy. 

The school is working on partnerships with the Bronx Arts Ensemble, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute of City University of New York to enhance curriculum. The SUNY Urban Teacher Education Center plans to assist with teacher training and professional development. Students would receive about three to five hours of Italian instruction a week depending on their age and would have the opportunity to practice conversing with Italian students via Skype, according to the application.

The proposal notes that the Bronx, particularly District 10, is “under-chartered” and not for lack of demand.

“Even ‘upscale’ Riverdale in District 10, where 150 students, nearly half the graduating class at what was then J.H.S. 141 went on to specialized high schools in 1992, that number has diminished by 90 percent in the past 20 years to just 15 per year more recently. There is no escape from the culture of failure that has gripped the schools of Bronx County, even in the borough’s ‘best’ neighborhood,’” the application reads.

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