Bronx parents witness lottery at NYC Montessori Charter School
Mott Haven, the Bronx: With good fortune implied in his last name and his mother’s dream of a better education for her son, kindergartener Wesley Lucks may land a coveted spot in the first Montessori Charter School in the Bronx. Wesley’s mother, Teashia Ruiz, sat with a group of anxious parents who observed the randomized lottery for slots in the New York City Montessori Charter School in kindergarten and first grade. “My niece goes to a charter school,” said Ruiz after Wesley’s name was placed on the wait list board, “and she is alert and so advanced in her academics. I wanted to give my Wesley the same opportunity.”
The NYC Montessori Charter School, the first Montessori public school in the city, held the lottery at the JCCA Auditorium on April 13 in compliance with charter law. The law requires that applicants’ names must be drawn at random for admission, through a lottery. Charter schools are also required by the State Board of Regents to give preference to applicants who reside in the district where the school is located, District 7 in this case. Applicants’ names must be drawn at random for admission. Siblings are also given preference; once a child is selected, a sibling is automatically given the next spot on the list.
According to Gina Sardi, founder and Principal of the NYC Montessori Charter School, a total of 238 applications were received, of which 171 were in-district applicants and 67 were out-of-district. If an applicant selected for admission lives in District 7, “the name will be placed in the next slot on the lottery board specifically for in-district applicants,” said Sardi. “The names of applicants who live outside District 7 will be placed on a wait list in the first available slot for out-of-district applicants.” During the drawing of the students’ names, Sardi was assisted by Robin Urquhart, the school’s Director of Instruction. Neil Pariser and Dr. Denise Clay of the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp. (SoBRO), the school’s institutional partner, verified the randomly drawn names for accuracy. Alex Gurvich, a Montessori Board member and Treasurer, as well as Jill Resnick of the Montessori Charter School, served as additional validators.
“This large volume of applications from the Bronx community clearly indicates a vote of confidence in the Montessori model of individual-centered teaching,” said Nilza Oyola, SoBRO Senior Vice President for Education. “Only 104 seats are allotted for the school’s first year – two classes for Kindergarten and two classes for first grade students – and that is why there is a wait list for slots.” SoBRO’s Denise Clay, who also chairs the school’s Board of Trustees, added that parents clamor for seats in Montessori classrooms “because the typical class size is small – there will be 26 students per class – and every class will have two adult instructors instead of one. More attention can, therefore, be paid to students’ development based on their individual learning styles and abilities.”
SoBRO’s Mario Bodden, Assistant Vice President of Community and Economic Development and SoBRO architect David Jang, with the support of retired Senior Vice President Neil Pariser, facilitated the extensive search for the new school’s location for three months. “After a suitability analysis of 16 possible sites, we are negotiating a lease for a space.” said Jang. “We are looking at a Mott Haven location that will be adequate for the school’s first year. But as enrollment grows each year, reaching 300 students from Kindergarten to fifth grade, a larger permanent space of about 30,000 square feet will have to be found.”
Neil Pariser was optimistic about the ongoing search for a permanent location. “Fortunately, District 7 in the South Bronx offers many appealing real estate options including structurally sound buildings with significance for historical preservation,” said Pariser. “Coupled with SoBRO’s robust partnerships with developers and city agencies, we are confident about securing an ideal site that will support and even enhance the Montessori education model.”
Kadiatou Diallo, a recent immigrant, shared this optimism. The mother of twins Alseny and Alhassane waited for nearly two hours as applicants’ names were mixed in a basket, drawn and posted on the board. Even in halting English, Mrs. Diallo left no doubt on why she and other Bronx parents were at the NYC Montessori Charter School lottery: “It is a better school.”
Results will be mailed to all applicants within a week of the lottery. For Kadiatou Diallo and Teashia Ruiz, the chance for their children to be Montessori students is worth the wait.