Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Equality's Adult Programming - ZUMBA TIP OF THE WEEK

In 2015 Equality Charter School launched our Adult Programming classes to support our parents and community members' educational needs. We offer classes in three areas: parenting, wellness, and career readiness.

Our current wellness class, which is offered free to all adults from our community, is ZUMBA. Approximately 25 people attend this weekly class taught by our YMCA instructor Eleanor Moody.....


Executive Director & Founder
Equality Charter School

Monday, December 19, 2016

Girls to Women Holiday Giving

Equality Charter High School Girls to Women group volunteered at Mount Sinai Hospital Rehabilitation Center on Friday, December 16, 2016. The scholars spent time greeting patients and give each patient with a personalized get well card.  We are very proud and honored to have an amazing, loving and compassionate scholars at Equality Charter School.

Caitlin Franco
Executive Director & Founder

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Equality vs. Equity?

Recently I came across this comic, and I found it to be really helpful... 
until it led to me wonder if our school had been named after the wrong word.

Image result for equality equity comic

Our school was named Equality Charter School after we coined the phrase, "We provide equal access to high quality education for all scholars." I did not choose the name myself, but I endorsed it without question. And I did not evaluate it as closely as I should have at that time. The definitions of the words EQUALITY and EQUITY above make it seem that EQUALITY prevents scholars from reaching the same outcomes, and I do not agree.

I believe in SAMENESS in regards to giving all of our scholars the same opportunities. It is not for me, or any other educator in our building, to limit a child from opportunities. It is not for me to decide that the scholar needs a different sized box just because, from my perspective, he/she seems to need a taller box. Who am I to decide? Instead, I hope we can teach scholars to learn about themselves and learn to advocate for what they need and not look to others to judge and decide for them. 

In the comic above, is it for me to decide that the shortest child needs a taller box to stand on? By doing that, I have already decided that there is no way he will accomplish the feat of looking over the fence unless I provide something to him. Maybe he will surprise us all and build a step stool to reach that goal himself. I have been surprised by our scholars time and time again, and those are always the most rewarding times as an educator.

And I also believe in FAIRNESS in that we give each scholar what he/she needs to reach the same outcomes. So maybe both words are appropriate in their own way, and without one, the other would not be as effective. 

So both words are appropriate and important to our school's philosophy, but after further evaluation I can sleep soundly with the name EQUALITY (Phew!)...

Caitlin Franco
Executive Director & Founder

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Special Thank You to Highline Stages

Equality Charter School would like to thank you Highline Stages for providing a perfect setting for our Spring Reception! Your generosity will help us build our Career Center and provide educational programs for our scholars. Shout out to Host Committee member Noel Luria for this connection!

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Inclusion... What Do We Mean?

At Equality, we pride ourselves on being a fully inclusive environment and we tout this fact quite often from the tops of our lungs.

But just as much as we talk about it, people ask us what we mean by the term "inclusive environment." The simplest answer is that we educate all scholars together, in one setting, without separating them based on labels they have been assigned. Most often, students are given the labels of GenEd for General Education scholars and SpEd for Special Education scholars. The very fact that labeling kids is a regular practice in most schools is what separates kids, not includes them in one common environment. We believe that, as a public school, it is our responsibility to educate all scholars who come to our school and to adapt our model, ourselves, and our teaching to meet their needs (not the other way around).

At Equality, we give all scholars "equal access to high quality education," which is actually where we got our name Equality Charter School. They are in classes all together, which gives the responsibility to the teacher(s) to meet all scholars needs in that one setting regardless of any labels. We look at each scholar individually to figure out how we can meet their needs. While "educating all scholars together, in one setting" may be the simplest of answers, it does not really even begin to address what it means. 

The other day I read an article, WHEN WE SAY, “WE DO INCLUSION,” WHAT DO WE MEAN? by  Megan Davis-Hitchens. This past summer, Ms. Davis-Hitchens came to Equality to train our staff on inclusive practices and we will continue to work with her throughout the course of the year.

In her first paragraph she states, "it becomes clear that behind their inclusive systems are highly passionate and committed educators - educators who believe, whole-heartedly, that all students can be successful and truly belong in their school community. They continuously adapt, modify, shift, and learn, in order to ensure that all students are included." And that is where all the work occurs. It is not simply in scheduling the scholars together in one setting, it is the challenging work our teachers take part in to ensure all of their needs are being met. 

We are grateful for all of the supports we get, such as from the NYC Charter School Center, to help us figure out how to best educate our scholars. Being a school that touts our inclusive environment, means we are a school that is constantly learning, growing, and evolving. Challenging work it is!

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director

Monday, December 12, 2016

Thank you to John Mongello from The Durst Organization

Equality Charter School would like to thank Host Committee member @John Mongello from The Durst Organization for getting our first sponsor!

We are currently seeking sponsors for our Spring Reception, please visit our event’s page to find out more about sponsorship opportunities: http://www.equalitycharterschool.org/events/spring-reception/

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School

Friday, December 9, 2016

Equality High School Interns Working towards Their Future!

Equality Charter High School's scholars are doing an awesome job at their Internships. We are so proud of their work. Thank you to our 2016-17 Internship sites! 

Check it out here: Equality High School Interns


Advanced Solutions
Apollo Medical Clinic
Assembly member Luis Sepulveda's office
BronxNet Television
Fordham University
Isabel's Empowering Queens
Jacobi Hospital
Robyn Burchman, DMD

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Inside Schools Visit

Thank you so much to Inside Schools for coming out to visit us yesterday. It was such an honor to spend the day touring Lydie around our Middle School and High School buildings for the day. She visited classrooms, chatted with teachers, spoke with some scholars, and interviewed school leadership. We always appreciate having visitors take the time to travel to us and get to know us. 

We look forward to seeing what she has to say about our school when they publish their updates in the next few weeks!

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Our Commitments

Image result for rumi quotes
This work is difficult.

This work is exhausting.

This work is challenging.

Because of all of these attributes of the work that educators partake in, by December we are drained.

It becomes even more important at this time to keep centered and focused.

At Equality, we have a Steering Committee. This committee is comprised of all leadership staff (anyone who supervises other staff) and representatives from other areas of the organization (such as teachers and a social worker). 

Each year the committee takes a different focus. This year, the objective for our Steering Committee meetings is to keep our spirits alive and healthy, to have deep conversations about what it takes to achieve our mission, to learn how to explore and think slowly about important issues, and to provide a safe space to hold discussions that we normally do not have on a regular basis.

We hold a monthly meeting where we reflect on the questions posed to us and delve into why something is occurring or how we got to where we are. This is opposed to searching for a solution, how to fix a problem, how to react, or how to bandage it - there is no action planning. For action-oriented staff members, this is challenging. It is difficult to just talk in depth about a topic.

We had our first of two retreats in August (the second is in January). At this retreat, we made commitments to each other and to ourselves...

  • Make space in the fire for the wild and the weak
  • Suspend judgments... or at least notice when we don’t
  • Ask for help
  • Candidly probe if we feel others may need support but are not asking for it
  • Learn about and practice being messy and/or emotional and meeting others when they are
  • Give each other the benefit of the doubt
  • Come back home to who we are and allow ourselves to be fully human without compromising mission

At each meeting, we focus on these commitments. Sometimes we zone in on one commitment. Sometimes we talk about several of them. During many other times I have found myself using the language of these commitments in conversations, usually difficult ones at that, to help guide someone. These commitments have become the guide for this year's challenges.

When someone is frustrated with a co-worker, it's helpful to remind them to "give each other the benefit of the doubt" or "make space in the fire for the wild and the weak." With this common language, which we created together, we are able to speak to each other in our own "language" and find common ground.

During this difficult, exhausting, challenging work that is education... in the month of December... it is important to have uplifting language that is common among school leaders to navigate through this time. Feel free to try out some of our commitments yourself.

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School

Monday, December 5, 2016

Equality's Spring Reception - Rose Manco

Equality Charter School would like to thank Host Committee member, Rose Manco from The Durst Organization, for securing 20 bottles of wine already! We will be having a Wine Pull at our Spring Reception.

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Scholars Volunteering

Equality Charter High School's Girls to Women Club volunteered at the St. Peter's Episcopal Love Kitchen for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Over 20 scholars helped to prepare and serve Thanksgiving meals to families. Equality Charter School is so fortunate to have scholars who are willing to help the community. 

Thank you, Girl's to Women!

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The History Behind Giving Tuesday

Like most non-profits, Equality holds our Annual Appeal during the November/December holiday season. You will see a lot of non-profits sharing their Giving Tuesday message today, Tuesday, November 29th. As I thought of that, it crossed my mind this morning that I do not even know where the concept of Giving Tuesday came from.

So I leaned on my trusty advisor... Google.

"Giving Tuesday was created when two organizations, the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation came together in 2012, about a month before that year's Thanksgiving. Their intention was to set aside a day that was all about celebrating the generosity of giving, a great American tradition." (https://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/giving-tuesday/). 

Look how this concept has spiraled from two organizations to hundreds of non profits. Most send out their appeals for financial support on this day to their networks. How do they all find success when there is so much "competition" for donors at this time of year? I assume that it is because there are so many big hearts at holiday time there is enough to go around!

I hope if you are giving back, you choose a charity that you are personally invested in. Choose one that speaks to your life and challenges you have overcome. I always find that I feel best when I donate to a cause that speaks to my life and that I may be helping someone through a struggle or issue that I can empathize with.

So, with that said, feel free to check out our school's annual appeal video and our donation page for our Career Center at Equality Charter High School.

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Undefeated Football Team

Equality Charter School Co-Ed Flag Football Team has defeated South Bronx Classical Team 33-12. Our scholars are working extremely hard on and off the field. Congratulations to ECS Eagles. We are so proud of you for balancing both your academics and extra-curricular activities.

Congrats again!

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School

Friday, November 25, 2016

Feeling Thankful

Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity to to stock of your life and what you are thankful for in your life.

And I just want to take a moment to share my gratitude for the Equality staff, scholars, and parents. It is an incredible community we have built.

The idea of Equality came about in 2008 and since then it has pretty much consumed my life. I have been truly blessed to still work with some of the people who started the school with me in 2009, and others who joined in 2010 and 2011. We are a team of co-workers that often times mirrors a family. But a family that has a passion, drive, and laser-like focus on improving the lives of our scholars like I have never seen or experienced before. 

I cannot imagine my life the past 9 years of my life without the blessing that has been Equality Charter School, and today, as I sit in my pajamas on the day after Thanksgiving, I am doing work for the school not because I have to, but because I've committed to a cause that I truly believe in.

Feeling thankful today,

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Equality's Shark Tank

As a school leader, there is never enough time, energy, or money to meet all of our scholars' needs. It's a frustrating, yet ever-present, part of my role. Before our staff came back to school in August 2016 for professional development, I wanted to think of a way to meet some of the needs of our scholars that may not be met by our current school structure and systems. I was also hoping to provide an opportunity for some of our staff to follow passion projects.

I called it, "Equality's Shark Tank."

The purpose was essentially to support innovation and out of the box thinking, to meet our scholars’ needs in new ways, to test out new ideas and follow through on passion projects, and (I mean this statement with all sincerity) to make the world a better place.

I started with the concept of the TV show Shark Tank. If you haven't watched the show yet, you should. 

The show is comprised of:
  • Budding entrepreneurs who get the chance to fulfill their dreams.
  • They present their ideas to the sharks in the tank .
  • The sharks are titans of industry who turned their ideas into lucrative empires.
  • The contestants try to convince any one of the sharks to invest money in their idea.

Equality's Shark Tank was comprised of:
  • A "pot" of $20,000 of SHARK TANK money.
  • A committee of Sharks (5 total) who selected the projects.
  • An invitation to ALL staff to submit their proposals. 
  • A 15 minute in-person presentation to the Sharks.
  • A deliberation using a pre-determined rubric for the Sharks to award the money.
The ideas could range from special speaker series, curriculum materials, technology, afterschool groups, materials for a class project, classroom environment improvements, gardens, murals, artwork, demonstrations, creative experiments, pet projects to complete with scholars, software for a course, overnight field trips, or experiential learning opportunities for scholars.

The projects were rated on a rubic in the areas of:
  • Innovation: a new method, idea, or strategy at Equality
  • Value to Scholars: is seen as useful; it solves a defined problem or meets a need
  • Wow Factor: shows a personal touch that may be unconventional at our school; implements ideas in new, clever and surprising ways
We had numerous submissions and the Sharks had a very difficult, yet rewarding, time deliberating on the best use of this money. In the end, the following projects won:
  • $3,000 to start a robotics club and invest in the proper equipment
  •  $4,500 for a special guest speaker and a full day of activities to speak to our staff and scholars on the power of an inclusive environment
  • $6,000 to provide a funding foundation to launch Equality’s first overseas trip to Costa Rica in summer 2017
  • $500 for a special guest instructor to teach scholars afterschool how to write a beatbox concerto
  • $3,000 to teach a group of our scholars how to invest in the stock market with real money (and at the end they will donate their final amount of money back to Equality in the form of a legacy gift of their choosing)
  • $3,000 to provide additional professional development courses for our teaching staff provided by Equality’s Adult Programming 
All in all, it was a successful launch of Equality's Shark Tank. While we want all of the projects to be successes, we also acknowledge the level of risk to some of them and look forward to seeing what works with our scholars.

If you’d like to donate to Mr. Morine’s Investment Group, he’s currently raising additional funds for technology items needed to support his group. Please donate here!

I’ll report back in a few months to let you know how the projects proceeded.

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School

Monday, November 21, 2016

Equality's Peer to Peer Tutoring Program

At Equality Charter School, we believe in our scholars getting real world opportunities. Through our Peer to Peer (P2P) tutoring program, our scholars get the experience to work for Equality Charter School.

Tutors in P2P are Equality scholars who excel academically, have strong emotional intelligence, and are motivated by a desire to help other scholars improve. They are officially hired by Equality and go through the process of applying and interviewing for a job, onboarding, and getting their first work experience within the safety of our environment.  Reciprocally, scholars matched with a tutor have the opportunity to learn from their peers.  

This model encourages cooperative problem-solving, an invaluable skill with real world application. Our veteran tutors are now serving as paid Teaching Assistants in classrooms.

Check out our video about Peer to Peer tutoring here. 

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Educating Scholars About School Loans

As we prepare our scholars for college, it is our responsibility to also proactively educate them regarding school loans. At Equality Charter School, we take that responsibility seriously. While our scholars will graduate and leave us one day, we are committed to them beyond their graduation day. We are committed to their success for life.

Caitlin Franco
Executive Director & Founder
Equality Charter School

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Learn more about us...

What do you know about charter schools? 

What do you know about Equality Charter School? 

Watch this video here to learn more about what makes Equality unique. 

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Thank you - Mi Garba Fundraising Event!

Thank you to everybody who came to our event last night hosted by Board member Ardian Hasko. What a wonderful event to support our Peer to Peer tutoring program.

If couldn't make it but would like to donate, please go here: https://www.crowdrise.com/peer-to-peer-program.

Thank you, as always, for all of your support,
Caitlin Franco
Executive Director & Founder
Equality Charter School

High Five Lunch

Equality Charter School celebrated the Middle School scholars' achievements in their ELA, Math and Science Interims for their grade level with a pizza luncheon.

Congratulations to our scholars. We are all so proud of their hard work and dedication.

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Annual Spelling Bee

Equality Charter School hosted its annual spelling bee at the Middle School. 
Congratulations to Shaquille, Roderick, Louis, and Barbara.

Spelling Bee winners are shown here. I am so proud of theird hard work!

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School


Monday, November 7, 2016

Equality Middle School Dance

Equality Charter Middle School had its 1st PBIS Dance for the 2016-2017 school year. 
Great jobs to our top 60 scholars! 

Here are some pictures from the PBIS Dance.

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Halloween Celebration!

Equality Charter Middle School expressed their love and spirit for Halloween. 
Here are a few pictures of our scholars.

Halloween at Equality Charter Middle School

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School

Monday, October 31, 2016

Equality After School Progamming

Equality Charter School After-School Programming has officially begun in October 2016. 

In less than a month, there is a total of 14 programs available for scholars ranging from academics to community services group. 

Here is a list of programs: ECHS After-School Programming

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Naviance at Equality Charter School

This week at Parent Teacher Conferences Equality Charter High School will be launching Naviance to support our families in preparing for college.

Check out more information at our website.

I am so grateful for our counselors' hard work to bring this to our scholars.

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School


Monday, October 24, 2016

Equality Scholars Attend the Breast Cancer Walk

I am extremely proud of our scholars for attending the Breast Cancer Walk at Orchard Beach last week. It was organized by our 10th grade scholar, Joshua Amponsah, who is also a member of our school's community service club Harvester’s for Change. 

Check out the story here.... 

I am so proud of our scholars!
Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School