Charter school coming to PS 114

A new charter school will be moving into Canarsie’s PS 114, the troubled grammar school which the city ordered shut down last year.

The Explore Excel Charter School is one of two schools expected to open in the flagging schoolhouse on Remsen Avenue between Glenwood Road and Bayview Place. The other will be a traditionally zoned public school with new leadership, officials said.

Morty Ballen, the CEO of the not-for-profit charter, said that PS 114 will host Brooklyn’s third Explore Excel school. Two other Explore Excel schools are in Flatbush and Crown Heights, he said.

The charter school, which prides itself on its “parents are partners” approach to education, claims parents will be just as important to the learning process as teachers.

“[Parents are] critical not only to their children’s education, but to the school’s direction,” Ballen said.

According to its application with the State University of New York’s Board of Trustees, the goal of Explore Excel is to provide 224 children from Kindergarten to grade three with skills that would allow them “to meet or exceed the performance standards currently established by the Board of Regents.”

Ballen said teachers achieve this goal by following the school’s long-held beliefs that “students achieve when they are expected to continuously improve” and “students achieve when the adults collaborate, reflect, enjoy autonomy and are held accountable” for their child’s education.

PS 114 fell under the city’s performance ax late last year when the Department of Education recommended it be closed after it scored a “D” on its overall progress report and an “F” when it came to school environment and student performance.

If the recommendation is approved by the city’s Panel for Education Policy — a panel appointed by the mayor and borough president — next month, the phase out of PS 114 will begin in September. At the same time, both the Explore Excel Charter School and the Department of Education school will open, taking in kindergartners and first graders.

Teachers assigned to PS 114 will continue teaching the remaining 800 third, fourth and fifth grade students through graduation, city officials said, and the conversion will be complete by 2014.

Ballen said students currently attending PS 114 will be given the first opportunity to join the new Explore Excel school. Once those slots are filled, enrollment will be offered to Canarsie children who aren’t enrolled in PS 114.

But parents and teachers at the embattled school are still hoping to sway the Panel for Education Policy into keeping PS 114 intact. To that end, they’ve begun scheduling “strategy sessions” so they can present a well-thought out argument against the school’s closure.

Parents, teachers and civic leaders have long held that PS 114’s teachers didn’t fail the students — school administrators did.

“This was once a model school in Canarsie and now, because of the mess one of our principals left behind, we’re left with an administration which doesn’t support the teachers when they need help and our children suffer as a result,” explained Parents Association President Crystal King.

“The DOE is completely complicit in creating the problems with this school,” added Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Canarsie), who called PS 114 “the gateway for the rest of Canarsie.”

“[The city] shouldn’t turn its back on it,” he said.

Concerned parties plan to present their case to the panel at a public hearing about PS 114’s closure on Jan. 24.

Public hearing on the closure of PS 114 [1077 Remsen Avenue between Glenwood Road and Bayview Place in Canarsie, (718) 257-4428], Jan. 24 at 6 pm.

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