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Meeting of the Board of Regents | December 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008 - 8:20am

sed seal                                                                                                 







Johanna Duncan-Poitier


Charter Schools: Application to Establish the Believe Southside Charter High School



December 5, 2008



Goals 1 and 2






Issue for Decision


Should the Regents approve the staff’s recommendation concerning the application to establish the Believe Southside Charter High School (New York City)?

Reason(s) for Consideration


              Required by State statute, Education Law §2852.


Proposed Handling


This question will come before the EMSC Committee in December 2008 for action.  It will then come before the full Board for final action in December 2008.


Procedural History


              The New York Charter Schools Act of 1998 requires the Board of Regents to review applications for both new charter schools and the renewal of existing charter schools that are submitted to it in accordance with the standards set forth in Education Law §2852(2).  After review, the Board of Regents may either (a) approve an application and issue a charter or a renewal charter for a term of up to five years, or (b) deny the application.  


In addition, New York Education Law §2852(7) provides that revisions of charter school charters shall be made only upon approval of the charter entity and the Board of Regents in accordance with the provisions of the law applicable to the issuance of charters themselves.  With respect to charter schools directly chartered by the Board, it may either approve a proposed revision or deny it.


Background Information


We have received an application from Eddie Calderon-Melendez and Ethan Mitnick (the applicants) for the establishment of the following charter school:


  •  Believe Southside Charter High School


The Believe Southside Charter High School (BSCHS or “the School”) will be located in Community School District (CSD) 14, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.  The School will open in August 2009.  Initially, the School will serve 100 students in grade nine and grow to serve 400 students in grades nine through twelve in the fourth year of operation.  The School's mission is “to provide a 9 -12 educational program that results in mastery of the New York State Learning Standards, high school graduation, and acceptance to colleges and universities of choice by all students.  In addition, BSCHS will develop and maintain a school culture that endorses high expectations that challenge each student to recognize and achieve his/her full potential within a school environment that is nurturing, professional and that fosters within each student an appreciation for life-long learning.  All BSCHS students will mature intellectually, socially, and morally as a result of being active members of the BSCHS school community.”  BSCHS is one of two identical initial applications that were submitted by Eddie Calderon-Melendez and Ethan Mitnick.  The other application is for the establishment of the Believe Northside Charter High School which would be located in a different section of CSD 14.  BSCHS will be modeled after the Williamsburg Charter High School (WCHS) in Brooklyn.  (See Attachment 1 for performance results of WCHS.) 




              VOTED: That the Board of Regents approves the application for the Believe Southside Charter High School .


Reasons for Recommendation


(1) The charter school described in the application meets the requirements set out in Article 56 of the Education Law, and all other applicable laws, rules, and regulations; (2) the applicants have demonstrated the ability to operate the school in an educationally and fiscally sound manner; and (3) granting the application is likely to improve student learning and achievement and materially further the purposes set out in subdivision two of section twenty-eight hundred fifty of Article 56 of the Education Law; and (4) granting the application will have a significant educational benefit to the students expected to attend the proposed charter school. 


Timetable for Implementation


The Regents action for the Believe Southside Charter High School is effective immediately.



New York State Education Department


Summary of Proposed Charter


Name of Proposed Charter School: Believe Southside Charter High School (BSCHS or “the School”).


Address:  TBD


Applicant(s):  Eddie Calderon-Melendez and Ethan Mitnick


Anticipated Opening Date:  August 24, 2009


District of Location: New York City Community School District 14, Brooklyn


Charter Entity: Board of Regents, New York State Education Department


Institutional Partner(s): N/A


Management Partner(s): N/A


Grades Served:                      2009-2010: 9

2010-2011: 9-10

2011-2012: 9-11

2012-2013: 9-12

2013-2014: 9-12


Projected Enrollment:         2009-2010: 100

2010-2011: 200

2011-2012: 300

2012-2013: 400

2013-2014: 400


Proposed Charter Highlights




Eddie Calderon-Melendez is the former Division Director for the Youth, Families and Educational Services at the St. Nicholas Neighborhood Preservation Corporation.  He also served as the Director of the Phipps Beacon Community Center in The Bronx.  Mr. Calderon-Melendez has over 20 years experience in youth development and was nominated for the Brooke Russell Astor award and the Rockefeller Foundation's Jane Jacobs medal.  Mr. Calderon-Melendez is the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of the Williamsburg Charter High School in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 


Ethan Mitnick is currently the Principal of the Williamsburg Charter High School.  He holds an Ed.D. in administration of special education programs and a Masters in teaching with a focus in bilingual special education.  Dr. Mitnick is certified as a Bilingual Special Education teacher, a School Building Leader and a School District Leader.  Throughout his career in the field of education, he has served as a teacher of special needs, an at-risk coordinator, a manager of Title I programs, and an assistant principal of special needs and academic support.


Institutional Partner



Management Partner






  • The School’s educational philosophy is to prepare low-income, New York City students for success in college and beyond.  This would be accomplished through a rigorous liberal arts college-preparatory program in which teachers take a personal interest in their students, convey high expectations to their students and always keep the goal of preparation for college standards in the foreground. 
  • The School envisions that “each young person will be prepared for his or her life journey through a rigorous and demanding liberal arts education that includes language, literature, writing, science, history, math, the arts, technology and explorations in disciplines designed to teach fairness, justice, respect and compassion for themselves and others as well as the skills of critical thinking, communications, and research.”
  • The School will implement an Advisory Group Model to support six basic competencies it deems essential for success as adults: health, physical, personal/social, cognitive/creative, vocational, and citizenship.  Advisors will be intimately aware of each student’s home and personal situation.
  • Incoming ninth grade students will attend a Freshman Seminar class that focuses on literacy and writing in order to enhance their skills.  This class will implement a curriculum that is informed by feedback from staff about the types of skills students are lacking, and by research-based programs that have been shown to improve academic skills.
  • Students will be encouraged to complete 50 hours of community work prior to graduation. 
  • Seniors will be required to pass Senior Seminar class, an interdisciplinary course designed to prepare students for the academic rigors of college.
  • In addition to the State-required assessments, the School will administer the Terra Nova reading and math assessment to all students in the spring of each year and to incoming students in the fall.  Additionally, classroom-based reading assessments will be used to evaluate each student’s growth and understanding.
  • The School will use assessment data to inform instruction by tracking both individual student and entire class mastery of content and skills.
  • Instruction will be differentiated to connect to each student’s particular level of development, including English language learners (ELL) and students with disabilities (SWD). 
  • Each student will have an Individualized Achievement Plan.  Created at the beginning of the school year, the student’s academic strengths and gaps will be documented, and specific achievement targets for the year will be established.
  • The School will employ a structured immersion strategy to help ELL students achieve proficiency in the English language.  The extended instructional day will offer additional opportunities for ELL students to acquire proficiency. 
  • The School will provide a special education program designed to meet the unique needs of SWDs and also prepare them for employment and independent living.
  • The School proposes a 186-day school year from August 2009 to the end of June 2010.
  • The School will provide instruction from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday, except on Wednesdays when dismissal time will be 1:30 p.m. for professional development activities with teachers.




  • The number of Trustees shall not be fewer than five (5) and shall not exceed fifteen (15).
  • Trustees will be elected to serve terms of three years.  Parent Trustees are appointed for one-year terms.
  • The Board of Trustees will include the president of the BSCHS Parent Association (non-voting), a student representative (voting), a BSCHS alumnus designated by the Alumni Association (voting), and a BSCHS teacher selected by the faculty (non-voting).
  • Trustees, officers and employees of any single organization shall hold no more than 40 percent of the total seats comprising the Board of Trustees.
  • In addition to the annual Board of Trustees meeting held in June, nine regular meetings will be held throughout the year.
  • The initial four committees of the Board of Trustees shall be Executive, Finance, Education and Accountability, and Board Development.
  • The officers of the Board of Trustees shall be chair, vice chair, secretary, and treasurer.




  • BSCHS will serve 100 students in grade nine in Year One and will grow to serve a maximum of 400 students in grades nine through twelve in Year Four.   
  • The School anticipates four classes of 25 students each.  Each class will have eight departmental classroom teachers. 
  • The School anticipates the ages of students enrolled in grades nine to twelve will range between 13 and 20 years of age. 
  • The School’s outreach efforts will include (in several languages): posting flyers and placing notices in local newspapers, supermarkets, communities of faith, community centers and apartment complexes; conducting information sessions at after-school programs and youth centers; visiting local organizations in surrounding neighborhoods; and canvassing neighborhoods to further reach interested families.
  • The School’s recruitment plan includes strategies to advertise widely to families from the community school district, including those with children classified as ELL and SWD. 
  • The School expects the student body to reflect the population of the target Community School District, which in 2008 was 63 percent Hispanic, 26 percent Black, eight percent White, three percent Asian or Other, 14 percent ELL, 17 percent SWD, and 78 percent eligible for the federal free/reduced lunch program.
  • The admissions policy includes a preference to “at risk” students.  This includes students who scored a 1 or 2 on the most recent New York State ELA or Mathematics exam, failed four or more classes in the past academic year, or scored below 65 percent on the most recent NYS ELA or Mathematics Regents exam.




  • The School plans to lease space in an existing school facility from the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) at an annual cost of one dollar.
  • In the event that NYCDOE space is not available, the School has identified a building located at 198 Varet Street in Brooklyn.  This facility will also be used by Williamsburg Charter High School as its campus, and will have appropriate incubation space for BSCHS.  The facility will be ready for the start of school in August 2009. 
  • The School’s projected revenue in Year One is $1,825,530 and will grow to $6,658,995 in Year Five.
  • The School anticipates $50,000.00 in grant funding from private sources in Year One and $62,000 in Year Five.
  • The School’s projected expenses in Year One are $1,720,356.00 and will grow to $5,594,696 in Year Five.
  • The School anticipates an ending fund balance of $105,174 at the end of Year One and $1,064,299 at the end of Year Five.
  • The School will seek the Charter Schools Program Planning and Implementation Grant of $600,000. 
  • The potential fiscal impact upon the District is represented below.  Please note that these projections are based upon several assumptions, which may or may not occur: that all existing charter schools will also exist in the next five years and serve the same grade levels as they do now; that the charter schools will be able to meet their projected maximum enrollment; that all students will come from NYC and no other districts; that all students will attend everyday for a 1.0 FTE; that the District’s budget will increase at the projected rate; that the per pupil payment will increase (and not decrease); and that the per pupil payment will increase at the projected rate.



Fiscal Impact of

Believe Southside Charter High School

(New York City – CSD 14 – Brooklyn)

2009-10 through 2013-14

School Year

Number of Students

Projected Payment*

Projected Impact





















* Assumes a 3 percent annual increase in the District’s budget from the base of $20.12 billion in 2007-2008; and a 4.5 percent annual increase in the average expense per pupil per year from the 2007-2008 rate of $11,023.




  • In Year One, the work of the principal will be supported by an assistant principal and business manager.  By Year Five, the following positions will be added to the staff: director of data management, director of parent relations, and principal’s assistant.
  • The School will employ the following staff in Year One: eight classroom teachers (36 in Year Five); one special education coordinator/teacher (three in Year Five); one ELL teacher (one in Year Five); a part-time guidance counselor (full-time in Year Five); and a part-time social worker (full-time in Year Five).
  • Teacher compensation will be differentiated.   Achievement of targets set forth in students’ Individualized Achievement Plan will serve as a performance measure to drive compensation.
  • In an effort to encourage instructional staff to share best practices, the School will offer incentives to staff members who have produced “suitable for replication” peer-reviewed learning experiences. 
  • Teachers will receive two weeks of professional development in the summer of each year prior to school opening. 
  • The School will contract with educational consultants to model instructional strategies and provide coaching to the staff in the areas of instruction and classroom management.   Additionally, the School will encourage mentoring between teachers and will arrange common preparation time within the daily schedule.


Community Support


  • The School provided 100 signatures of parent support to satisfy its target enrollment. 
  • The School has received support from the following community leaders: Diana Reyna, 34th Assembly District council member; and Joseph Lentol, 50th District Assemblyman. 



  • The New York City Department of Education sent a letter and posted the notice on its website, notifying the public and independent schools in Community School District 14 of the proposed application for Believe Southside Charter High School and inviting comments for the public hearing. 
  • The public hearing was held on Monday, August 11, 2008.  No comments were made or received.





Attachment 1

Charter High School

Percentage of Students Scoring At or Above 65%

on NYS Regents Exams