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Democracy Prep Eyeing Takeover of Bronx Prep Charter School

By Eddie Small | April 30, 2014 6:06pm
 The Bronx Prep Charter School Board of Trustees has voted to put the institution under the management of Democracy Prep.
The Bronx Prep Charter School Board of Trustees has voted to put the institution under the management of Democracy Prep.
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CLAREMONT — Democracy Prep is eyeing a takeover of Bronx Preparatory Charter School after years of disappointing performance there, school officials said.

The Board of Trustees at Bronx Prep voted on April 9 to bring the school under the management of Democracy Prep, a network of charter schools that currently has nine locations in New York and New Jersey.

Bronx Prep had been struggling to meet its academic goals, according to school spokesman Bob Bellafiore, receiving a C on its latest progress report, a D for the 2011-'12 year and a C for the 2010-'11 year.

And in 2009, the school was at risk of being put on probation for failing to meet state teacher certification requirements, the New York Post reported.

The Bronx Prep board determined that the school would benefit from improvement in areas like professional development, administration and planning.

“As a school unaffiliated with any network, we found it increasingly challenging to deliver on these important aspects and also achieve our goals for our scholars and their families,” Bellafiore said in an email.

Members decided to bring Democracy Prep on board based on the organization's reputation for turning around charter schools. The network has previously worked to turn around the Harlem Day Charter School, a failing East Harlem elementary school, and the Freedom Academy Charter School, a low-performing school in Camden, N.J.

The network will act as a managing consultant in the 2014-'15 school year, after which the plan is to turn Bronx Prep into another Democracy Prep school, according to spokeswoman Alice Maggin.

Democracy Prep is not yet sure how different the school will be on a day-to-day basis, but will work to make the transition as smooth as possible for students and families, Maggin said. They hope to limit staff turnover as well.

"We’re going to try to retain as many teachers as we can," she said.

Bellafiore said he believed the school would have a rigorous academic curriculum and improved professional development under Democracy Prep.

"People need to make some adjustments, but they’re going to be for the long-term benefit of the school and the students," he said.

All high school students at Democracy Prep schools are required to take four years of Korean and the Korean Regents Exam. However, this policy would not take effect at Bronx Prep until the 2015-'16 academic year, starting with ninth graders.

The arrangement that would allow Bronx Prep to contract with Democracy Prep has not yet been finalized, according to Catherine Kramer, director of charter school information at the SUNY Charter Schools Institute.

"The Institute is waiting for the submission of a proposal," she said in an email.

Bronx Prep, located at 3872 Third Ave., serves about 700 students in fifth to 12th grade and graduated its first high school class in June 2007.

Democracy Prep was excited about its future with Bronx Prep.

"We’re thrilled," said Maggin. "We want to try to help and expand and educate as many students as we can."