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Monday, April 11, 2011

Bronx Weekend News Roundup, Monday, April 11

Weather: Dense fog in the Bronx today will give way to a partially cloudy, partially sunny afternoon with highs in the low 70s. Chance of thunderstorms later tonight.

Story of the Day: Bronx's MS 223 Embodies Public School Challenges
Spent a good chunk of this morning reading Jonathan Mahler's extensive NY Times Magazine piece about MS 223, a South Bronx school opened during the early days of former Chancellor Joel Klein's reform movement. Through his profile of 223 and its energetic and highly-optimistic principal, Ramon Gonzalez, Mahler, who wrote the fabulously entertaining "The Bronx is Burning," deftly captures the challenges of not only running, but improving, public schools in the Bronx (and much of NYC, for that matter). If you don't have time to read the piece (as I mentioned, it's "extensive," to the tune of 20 printed out pages), I'll summarize the key take away points.

--The charter school paradox: Gonzalez uses many ideas and strategies promoted by charters schools. MS 223 starts school early and entices kids to stay late. Gonzalez hires young, bright, inexperienced and tireless teachers from groups like Teach for America and NYC Teaching Fellows. He partners with nonprofits and uses resources to raise funds for 223. He instituted a dress code. At the same time, charter schools are plucking many of the most promising local students -- whose parents want all the structure and personal attention charters have to offer. Plus, Gonzalez doesn't have the flexibility of a charter because he's more bound to union regulations. Now, he's fighting to keep a charter school out of his own building.

--MS 223 is a good example of the city's controversial strategy of shutting down schools and starting over. Gonzalez's school undoubtedly represents a large improvement over the middle school it replaced. Math and reading scores have spiked exponentially.

--On the other hand, MS 223 is also taking on students dispersed when the city shuts down other low-performing schools. As Mahler puts it: "the endless flow of underperforming students drags down test scores, demoralizes teachers and makes the already daunting challenges of transforming 223 into a successful school, not not just a relatively successful one, that much more difficult."

--The most overwhelming challenge at schools like MS 223 remains poverty and lack of parental involvement.

Quick Hits:
A look at the Bronx Zoo's celebrity cobra, which was recently named "Mia," following an online contest to brand the former escapee:

A look at MTV's new upcoming reality show, "Son of a Gun," which will follow the life and career of Bronx rapper Corey Gunz.

During the rough winter months, a stretch of two- and three-story homes in the Bronx -- on Freeman Street, between Union and Prospect avenues -- could very well have been the Most Neglected Block in New York City.

A grand jury is looking into a police ticket-fixing scheme that may have involved some 40 Bronx cops.

The animators for the new movie "Rio," went to the Bronx Zoo for inspiration.

A Bronx Science senior contemplates a buffet of Ivy League college choices while trying to avoid "hubris."

A 16-year-old Bronx boy was arrested and charged with murder following last Thursday's triple shooting near the corner of Fordham Road and University Avenue.

The family of a Bronx man who died of heat stroke while incarcerated at a boot-camp-style detention center is suing the state for $18 million, saying missteps and abuses led to his death.


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