The key to any successful annual fundraising drive is continuity and longevity. But after launching its inaugural Read, Write, & Run 5K fundraiser last year, the Ethical Community Charter School staff feared that it would have to cancel the fundraiser this year.
“I’m so excited to be having our second annual race again in Liberty State Park,” said Race Director Tracy Reinholt. “After Hurricane Sandy, it was unclear whether or not we would be able to race in the park. After a meeting with the park event director, and a tour of the massive damage in her jeep, it was decided that we would have the race, but would have to alter the course. This year's course still offers fantastic views of the Manhattan skyline and keeps us a safe distance from ongoing construction. I think it’s a great way to support Liberty State Park during this time, and I think we are lucky because there are so few events being allowed in the park right now.”
Thus, the Read, Write & Run 5K will be back for its second year on Saturday, June 15 – and will return to Liberty State Park with an altered route from the one runners ran last year.
Proceeds from the run will benefit the Journal Square/Marion-area charter school and will be used to cover the costs of new MacBooks, classroom supplies, field trips, and school assemblies.
The students take ethics classes as part of their curriculum.
Mayor-elect Steven Fulop, an avid runner himself, will be on hand to kick off the run, which will feature a run for adults and smaller runs for kids of all ages.
Funding the gap
Charter schools in New Jersey are supposed to receive 90 percent of the per-student cost allocated to students in other public schools. But charter schools in Jersey City sometimes receive as little as 50 percent of the per student costs allocated to other public school students.
In 2011, four Jersey City charter schools – Ethical Community Charter School, Golden Door Charter School, Community Charter School, and Soaring Heights Charter School – sent a 29-page petition to New Jersey Education Commissioner Chris Cerf demanding that these institutions receive the funding they deserve.
According to Ethical Community Charter School staff, the school currently receives less than half of the per-student funding allowance given to non-charter public schools in Jersey City, even though its students outperform their peers on standardized achievement tests.
Since charter schools don’t receive all the funding that regular public schools receive, they are forced to make up the difference through donations and fundraising drives like the Read, Write, & Run 5K. Charter schools, including Ethical Community Charter School, also rely on grant money from foundations to help cover their expenses.
Citywide student body
All charter schools in New Jersey – which are usually founded by parents and educators – are required to identify a mission. Some have an environmental focus, while others try to foster entrepreneurship in their students. In the case of Ethical Community Charter School, “ethics, service, and social justice are the principles that inform every aspect of school life,” according to school Principal Marta Bergamini.
The school, which opened in the fall of 2009, offers ethics classes to its students as a part of the regular curriculum alongside English, math, science, social studies, art, and music. Second and third graders take ethics classes twice a week, while kindergarteners take these classes once a week.
The ethics curriculum, taught by Geoffrey Renaud, uses role-playing and examples from literature to generate discussion of ethical behavior. Much of what is taught in these classes centers on the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Ongoing charity drives are one way the school tries to live up to its mission. Conflict resolution through discussion is another of the school’s trademarks, said Bergamini.
“Whenever we have conflict, we have a discussion, regardless of what subject you’re in,” she said. “We go over what happened. How did the other person feel? It’s about teaching both parties respect for each other.”
She added that developing a language for conflict resolution is particularly important for a generation of kids who may be more accustomed to communicating through technology than verbal conversation.
At present, the school goes from kindergarten through the fourth grade and serves a student population of 240 students. Next year the school will expand to the fifth grade and increase the student body to 280 students.
To attend the school, parents must submit applications in January for the upcoming school year. The school then holds a public lottery to draw names for each grade. Although preference is given to Jersey City residents, and to the siblings of current students, no other preferences are given to applicants. Applicants can be admitted from other cities if and when class slots are not filled by Jersey City residents.
Based on the results of the annual lottery, applicants are either admitted or put on a waiting list.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about charter schools,” said Bergamini. “When I go to meetings with other educators, they say, ‘Well, you get to pick who goes to your school.’ Or, people think we don’t have to have certified teachers. No. We’re a public school…We teach the New Jersey state core curriculum and we build upon it.”
All kindergarten and first grade classrooms have a state certified teacher and a teacher assistant. Second grade classes have a certified teacher and the part-time help of a teaching assistant. Third grade classes have a certified teacher and rely on a “floating” teaching assistant who helps out in several classrooms, Bergamini said.
All classes are capped at 20 students.
Ideally, Bergamini added, each classroom would have full-time teaching assistant. But due to a lack of available funding, the school must make the most use of its limited teaching assistant staff.
Registrations still being accepted
To register for Read, Write, & Run 5K, visit www.ReadWriteRun5K.com. The entry fee is $25 and the first 300 registered runners will receive a free t-shirt and goodie bag. Prizes will be given to the top three women and the top three men to finish. The adult run begins at 9:30 a.m. with the kids’ races beginning at 10:30 a.m.
To learn more about the Ethical Community Charter School, visit www.teccs-jc.org.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.