What happens as a new small school grows up? We’ve covered the road bumps and results for years here at GothamSchools.
Now, we have “The New Public,” a documentary film follows students at teachers at Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School from the day the school opened in 2006 through the graduation of its first senior class.
We’re teaming up with the film’s producers for a special screening Nov. 15 that includes a panel discussion with Kevin Greer, the school’s founding English teacher; Lyntonia Coston, an assistant principal; and Earlene Tribble, the mother of one of the students featured in the film. (Find details about the screening, at Maysles Cinema in Harlem, and RSVP here.)
Panelists will discuss how the first few years challenged teachers’ and parents’ expectations, the changes they made in the moment, and what they would do differently if they could do day one all over again.
BCAM — one of hundreds of small, themed high schools created during the Bloomberg era — opened with 104 freshmen and eight teachers. Four years later, the staff had grown grown to 50 and the school to 450, but almost half of the senior class had dropped out or transferred to other schools.
“There were also kids that got lost,” the school’s social worker says toward the end of the film. We’ll be asking the panelists to explain that counter-intuitive statement: What does it mean for students to get lost in a small school?
We’ll also want to hear how the school’s culture evolved over time. Greer says early on in the film that some schools imprint their culture on students, but that he and his colleagues were trying to do something different. Four years later, an English teacher suggests that BCAM students get away with too much and says, “The idea is it’s not an authoritarian environment, but you’ve got to be realistic.”
The film showcases the shift. When Tribble’s son Moses is asked as a freshman to describe his school, he replies, “It’s fun, small, and it’s loose.” Later on, another student has a very different assessment: “We got away with a lot in ninth and 10th grade.”
Watch and discuss “The New Public” at the Maylses Cinema in Harlem at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15. RSVP here.