When the Learning Community Charter School kicked off its sixth annual Art-Infused Spring Gala on April 4, which is hosted by the Rialto-Capital Board of Trustees each year, it followed a noble tradition. The event makes annual use of the spectacular renovated ballroom of The Beacon development – the site of the former Jersey City Medical Center.
This year, the school paid tribute to real estate developer Paul Silverman, giving him its Champion Award for 2014.
“We just wanted to honor him for all he does in the community,” said Anne Marusic, who performs public relations work for Learning Community.
Jennifer Hughes, coordinator of the gala, said that Silverman recently took a tour and has become a patron of the school in much the same way he has become a patron of the local arts.
Paul Silverman and his brother Eric have become fixtures in Hudson County. Their company SILVERMAN (Paul insists it be all in capital letters) recently celebrated 30 years of development that he described as “building neighborhoods.”
“We just wanted to honor him for all he does in the community.” – Anne Marusic
Silverman said his interest in Learning Community stems from his desire to build all parts of a community.
“Learning Community Charter School is filled with great energy, enthusiasm and creativity,” Silverman said.
The school, he said, is important to local neighborhoods, because residents stay and raise their families in Jersey City.
What has not changed in this year’s spring gala from the past is the involvement of parents.
Dubbed an arts event offering an opportunity for people to mingle, enjoy some smooth live jazz, nibble on fine foods, and sample local wine and beer provided by Silverman’s micro-brewery, nearly all the art up for auction was done by the parents of children at the school – many of whom are well-established artists in Jersey City and beyond.
Most the art was donated to the auction, allowing the school to keep whatever money the bids bring in. Artists included Ozlem Baygun, Iris Rivo, John Dunstan, Anita Garnett, Yishai Minkin, Samar Hussaini, Roger Sayer and others.
But the involvement of parents doesn’t stop there. Almost everyone who volunteered to work at the gala, from the receptionist to the bartenders, had kids at the school.
Hughes said she has a son at the school. Marusic does, too.
Brittin Beleaskley, director of operations, hadn’t intended to work for the school at all. “I started as a receptionist,” she said. Her daughter went through LCCS and eventually got accepted to McNair Academy. She has a son in the sixth grade.
While many of the parents of the students at the school are involved in the arts in some way or another, the school operates on a lottery. Students apply and then get selected via lottery. Beleaskley said the school’s survival, however, depends a lot on how involved the parents are.
Originally established in 1997 at the Jersey City Boys and Girls School, LCCS moved to its current location on Kennedy Boulevard near Lincoln Park in 2007.
The school provides project-based education to elementary school students, such as a frog study. Students read science books about frogs. They chronicle the amphibian life cycle, keep a journal, watch live frogs grow, observe a dissection. They even find a way to study frog life in their music and movement class, and they select music and create an interpretive dance to tell the story of the front life cycle.
“It’s frogs, frogs, frogs,” Marusic said laughing. “They learn everything there is to know about frogs.”
The students help write a script to share what they have learned. In visual arts they paint scenery for a frog dance play that is performed for the other grades.
Students come from throughout the city, Hughes said.
With an operating budget of about $100,000 annually, the progressive school relies on the help of its parents and a several fundraisers such as this to help keep the school running.
Kimberly Smith, technology coordinator for the school, said innovations such as using Google Cloud and Google Chrome notebooks helps provide the necessary technology students need. Kids learn basic computer operations in the early grades, such as keyboard functions, so they can use these tools for more advanced learning as they get into the upper grades.
The school has about 600 students in grades pre-K to eight.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.