Three Brooklyn school districts receive federal magnet school funding, hope to boost education and enrollment

kids in backpacks maget school
Seven schools in three Brooklyn districts have received federal magnet school funding, allowing them to continue providing high-quality specialized education to public school students.
Pexels/Stanley Morales

Earlier this month, representatives from seven Brooklyn schools in three districts gathered at the Tweed Courthouse in Manhattan for an announcement: They had been selected to receive federal grant funding from the Magnet School Assistance Programs. Districts 16 (Beford-Stuyvesant,) 32 (Bushwick,) and 19 (East New York, Cypress Hills, Starrett City,) will receive the funding, and two or three schools in each district have been selected to become magnet schools.

“Oh my goodness, there’s no words,” said Rebecca Lozada, superintendent of District 32, with a laugh. “To get the amount of funding and support…we screamed, we hollered, we jumped, we danced, we cried, because the dream can become a reality of having STEAM, and journalism, and civics, and broadcasting, and advanced literacy, and exposure to leadership, and having hydroponics. The sky’s the limit. It can happen, and so we were extremely excited and grateful, very grateful.”

cypress hills school parents
Earlier this year, parents in District 19 met with federal officials to share their concerns about public schools. Now, the district is getting three new magnet schools — which school leaders hope will boost education and enrollment. File photo by Caroline Ourso

According to the city’s Department of Education, magnet grants aim to help schools to develop “whole-school programs and offer equitable school choice to families.” The magnet schools themselves use the funds to develop programs specific to the school’s “theme,” which would allow students to learn about media, arts, technology and engineering skills, or even leadership and critical thinking skills. 

Each district will receive an estimated $6 million over a five-year period, which will be distributed to the chosen magnet schools. Those schools are: 

  • District 32 – PS 86  Irvington 
  • District 32 – PS 116 Elizabeth L. Farrell 
  • District 16 – PS 145 Andrew Jackson
  • District 16 – MS 35 Stephen Decatur
  • District 19 – PS 202 Ernest S. Jenkyns
  • District 19 – IS 171 Abraham Lincoln Middle school
  • District 19 – IS 654 Van Siclen Community Middle School

Grant applications focus on projects, priorities, and need

Brooklyn’s three districts were selected by the DOE’s MSAP office, which assessed criteria for every district across the city for a number of criteria, including each district’s need for assistance, new and revised projects, priorities, and “inter-district approach to competitiveness.” Once the MSAP office had made its choices, the districts chose the schools they wanted to become magnets. 

Applying for the grants was team effort between the DOE’s MSAP and each district. The teams included principals, their lead teachers and parent coordinators, community-based organizations, central and district staff members. Each application included creating a curriculum and a sample budget, and explaining partnerships and professional development for the faculty.  

“All worked together to make sure we put together a competitive application,” says Brendan Mims, the Superintendent of District 16. “Because there are multiple schools that are involved when you do the application and it’s competitive, so the more aligned the approaches are, the better chances you have of landing the grant. So we were all on the same page with knowing what we wanted to bring to the district.”

The applications were submitted last spring, and the recipients of the grants were announced on October 5. Three districts in Queens were also selected for the grants. 

child at school desk
The magnet schools will use the grant funding to create or maintain programs specific to their school theme. Each school has a particular focus, and works to provide a well-rounded education. Pexels/CDC

District 19 superintendent Tamra Collins, had only began in her position a year earlier when the application process began. But she still had a vision for the district that made an emphasis on equity. 

There are no magnet schools in District 19, explained Irene Spence, Executive Director for School Support and Operations in the district. The grant funding will allow them to turn three schools into magnets: PS 202 Ernest S. Jenkyns will become a magnet school for Journalism and Multimedia; IS 171 Abraham Lincoln Middle School will specialize in Leadership and Innovation; IS 654 Van Siclen Community Middle School will be the magnet school for Multimedia Arts and Engineering.

The district made their application compelling “by really thinking of opportunities that this could be bring for our students in District 19, in terms of being innovative, and providing opportunities for 21st Century skills,” Spence said. 

Over in District 32, PS 86 Irvington will become the Bushwick Multimedia and Arts Academy, while PS 116 Elizabeth L. Farrell will be The Magnet School of Leadership through Multimedia and the Arts.

As for District 16, P.S. 145 Andrew Jackson will be The Magnet School of Leadership through Engineering and M.S. 35 Stephen Decatur school will become The Magnet School of Leadership, Exploration and the Arts.

High hopes for Brooklyn’s magnet schools

Jacklyn Charles-Marcus, the principal of M.S. 35, says her school first applied for the grant in 2017 but was unsuccessful. Since then, the school promoted itself as place where children learn outside of the classroom, and learn to become leaders. Now, with the nearly $6 million coming to her school to make it a magnet school over five years, Charles-Marcus has to plan everything to get those programs started. That includes creating leadership programs for all three grades that allow students to grow and develop with each program while in each grade. There will be field trips reflecting the school’s dedication to teaching students outside of the school and exposing them to various arts such as Broadway shows and dance productions, she said.

“It’s our goal to ensure that our students are really exposed to what the world has to offer in terms of arts, technology, STEAM,” says Charles-Marcus. “Just that whole world that they may not have been to have been exposed to without the funds.”

Charles-Marcus hopes her school continues to flourish as students are exposed to the arts and the world outside of school and learn about leadership and standing up for themselves. She also hopes that the new designation as a magnet school will cause enrollment, which has been low in recent years, to increase. 

DOE Chancellor David C. Banks (right) reads to children at a Brooklyn school. The DOE worked with districts citywide to decide which would apply for the grants, and to help them craft strong applications. John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

Mims also wants to see a boost in enrollment in District 16. Fewer students have been attending public schools in the area, while charter schools have gotten a boost. Mims believes these magnet grants will help market the local public schools.

“The part of a magnet school, like a magnet, you want to attract to the school,” he said. “So this money, that will get to stimulate the idea and the innovative curriculum will definitely support District 16 with attracting parents, who are looking for competitive programs and schools. With this magnet money, we’ll be able to market more competitively.”

For now, each school will be working with the funds as they trickle in over the next five years. The excitement is in the air, and the superintendents, like Lozada, are hoping that these magnet grants will make the schools in their districts standouts in Brooklyn and provide students with a solid education.

“Students’ academic achievement and advancement is always our goal,” she says. “We want to keep students at the center. We are hoping that these funds attract more students. We believe every child has something to offer and they deserve access to high, effective education. We’re over the moon with excitement.”