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Hellenic Classical Charter School Hosts Unveiling Ceremony for its Newly Renovated Building
by Eleni Kostopoulos
Ethnic-culture-based Hellenic Classical Charter School (HCCS) in Brooklyn, NY, home to about 475 students enrolled in grades Kindergarten through eighth, celebrated its freshly renovated institution on May 8 with a ribbon-cutting and stage-unveiling ceremony. The $8.3-million expansion, which doubled the building’s size, includes six new classrooms, two resource rooms, eight academic intervention and special education rooms, a college-sized state-of-the-art gymnasium, bathrooms, theater and dance room, library, IT room, telephone system and new exterior.
“The school expansion was a project that was well thought of, well built, created and developed,” said Joy Petrakos, Director of Finance and Operations at HCCS. “It took a dedicated group of people to make this happen. Year after year, we dealt with drilling, moving from room to room, dust, inspections and noisy construction. We actually witnessed the beams go up and the walls as they were created. The before-and-after pictures are just incredible.”
Petrakos said that she is proud of the final product, which was a culmination of three years of hard work. “My fondest memory is when we would see the students come in with excitement to see the building each day,” said Petrakos. “They would talk about it, see the drawings and just wait for it to be completed. The day has come, and the whole HCCS community is overjoyed. We have a love for our students and we have a love for learning; now we have this space, and we are happier than ever.”
A number of special guests attended the May 8 celebration, including School board Chairperson Charles Capetanakis Esq., Treasurer Nikolaos Leonardos, Secretary and Educational Chair Harvey Newman, Effie Lekas and B. Dean Angelakos, as well as NYS Assemblyperson Nicole Malliotakis, NYS Assemblyperson Felix Ortiz, Andrew Gounardes Esq., Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.
Gregory Pappas of the Pappas Post served as Master of Ceremonies, and Annet Artani and Yianni Papastefanou sang the American and Greek National Anthems, respectively.
HCCS Principal Christina Tettonis welcomed the more than 200 guests and provided a brief history of the 10 year-old school. Tettonis also introduced Mr. George Svokos, trustee of the Agnes Varis Charitable Trust, and thanked him for the generous donation made to HCCS that supported the construction of the “Konstantinos and Carrie Tettonis Memorial Stage,” which was named after the principal’s in-laws who grew up with Svokos and had a strong friendship with him.
Guests, consisting of parents and students, enjoyed a theatrical performance written by Petros Fourniotis and Georgia Kopani and directed by Petros Fourniotis, specifically for the ribbon cutting ceremony of HCCS. The play, called “Destiny Fulfilled,” highlighted the gifts Greece has given to the modern world, such as medicine, democracy, education and philosophy.
“It is set just after the Persian wars, when Athens had begun to gain its power back,” said Petrakos of the play, which was performed by Greek-speaking students of HCCS. “A man named Pericles wonders what the future holds for his city and if the Hellenic ideas and ideals will survive through the centuries. He decides to make the pilgrimage to find the answers he is looking for from the oracle of Delphi. Pythia, played by Anthoula Katsimatides, reminds him of all the ideas and ideals the Hellenes gave to the world: astronomy, democracy, paideia, medicine. Pythia foretells the future of a school that will be built to house all of these ideas and ideals to Hellenes and Philhellenes alike. That school is The Hellenic Classical Charter School.”
Among the obvious benefits of the expansion, Petrakos said that the quality of education at HCCS has improved tremendously. “We now have the opportunity to teach in a spacious building,” she said. “Everyone has a home. Before, space was so limited, that we had groups of children in the hallway. Now with the gymnasium, the community has really grown and come together. The children are able to enjoy learning in all areas. The students are proud of their school. They love coming to school and they do not want to leave in the afternoon. We now have sports and arts afterschool programs.”
Petrakos added that it is the dedicated members of the school’s community that have worked together to enhance the quality of education for its students. She credits the diligent efforts of HCCS’s principal, members of the board and parents for the school’s many feats over the past decade.
HCCS was founded in 2005, and it provides students with a classical education rich in challenging content. The School instructs students using the Core Knowledge curriculum and supplements all instruction with the classical study of the Greek and Latin languages, as well as history, art and other cultural studies. HCCS uses didactic instruction, coaching and Socratic questioning.
“We have a dynamic group of teachers who are dedicated and work very hard each day,” she said. “We have the best PTA. The parents trust us and have done so much for our children. We are so very appreciative of them. We have a knowledgeable and strong school board that believes in us and supports us. We have a principal who loves her students and her faculty. Mrs. Tettonis strives for excellence for all, and she never settles on her accomplishments. She is always thinking about what is next. This is the overall culture of the school. We are all learners and believers. We are all Hellenes.”