Trio of New Charter Schools Vying to Open in Harlem Next Year

By Gustavo Solis on August 14, 2014 2:56pm 

 Dr. Steven Perry (wearing bowtie), founder of Captial Prep Harlem Charter School, met with local parents and community leaders Wednesday evening in Harlem to talk about a college prep high school he applied to open.
Dr. Steven Perry (wearing bowtie), founder of Captial Prep Harlem Charter School, met with local parents and community leaders Wednesday evening in Harlem to talk about a college prep high school he applied to open.
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DNAinfo/Gustavo Solis

HARLEM — An all-boys school, a school that focuses on second-languages, and a high school program that claims a 100 percent graduation rate are setting their sights on Harlem.

All three charter schools will file their final applications with the State Education Department Monday, in the hopes of opening by the fall of 2015.

“There is a richness that Harlem has that speaks to black America in particular and America in general,” said Dr. Steve Perry, founder of Capital Prep Harlem Charter School, one of the schools applying for space. “Harlem is again the epicenter of learning.”

Two of the proposed schools — Capital Prep and the Sofara International Charter School — will request co-location space with public schools in the district, but are also looking for private alternatives, according to their letters of intent.

The third school, Sankofa School for Boys, is negotiating a lease with a local church but has the right to request space from the Department of Education.

Each school hopes to bring something new to Harlem.

Perry, who has appeared on CNN, is the founder and principal of Capital Prep Magnet School in Connecticut, where students outperform their district in math and reading exams, and also boast a 100 percent graduation rate, according to his letter of intent.

He plans to implement the same model as he did in Connecticut, a “year-round college prep curriculum designed to address the achievement gap.”

The Sofara International Charter School, where kindergartners learn new languages, will implement an International Baccalaureate curriculum. The students will also get a heavy dose of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects.

“Currently there are no other schools of choice with this combination of programming,” reads Sofara's letter of intent. “Of the current elementary schools in CSD 5, seven of which are charter, none offer SICS’s combination of languages with inquiry-led, project based, instructional methodology of teaching and learning.”

The Sankofa School for Boys will use a “trauma-induced approach,” aimed helping children who come from vulnerable environments. The elementary school will employ two physicians, a nurse and a psychologist to help the students.

“We want to put our hands around the bigger issue,” said the school’s founder, Ashanti Chimurenga. “Why aren’t boys learning? Regardless of socio-economic status, they are lagging behind.”

The school’s curriculum includes extended days to get every student at reading level by the third grade.

Its plan is to find a private location, and school officials have been working with local organizations to negotiate a lease, Chimurenga said.

“I’m not an outside person, I live in Harlem,” Chimurenga explained. “I worked in a public school that got pushed out by a charter.”

Before submitting their final application, board members including Perry from Capital Prep met with about 25 local parents at the Harlem Haberdashery on Lenox Avenue Wednesday night.

"My daughter is only 6, but I would definitely want her to go to that school," said Sharene Wood, who owns the boutique. 

Wood was particularly interested in the college prep aspect of the curriculum because it is particularly difficult for children whose parents didn't go to college to make the jump themselves, she said.

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