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Chartering Classics One School at a Time – The Hellenic Classical Charter School Expands to Staten Island
It’s been two years since I last spoke with Joy Petrakos, Founding Director of Operations, about the success of the Brooklyn-based Hellenic Classical Charter School (HCCS) in Park Slope. I remember her great enthusiasm for the school – an enthusiasm that was expressed with great words and a great plan to expand. What was a great vision back then has now turned into an active plan. The Hellenic Classical Charter School will open its second school in NYC Community School District 31 with approval from THE NYSED Board of Regents, an approval process that is challenging and daunting, but when you already have one strong, enduring school on your side, along with a dedicated school board and administration, the need for a second one, in a strategic location, works in your favor.
The Hellenic Classical Charter School of Staten Island is scheduled to open in September 2019 and will be bigger, with three classes per grade and an anticipated enrollment of 675 students in grades k-8. It will accommodate approximately 150 more students than HCCS Brooklyn. As directed by the charter, the school will start as a k-1 school in the first year, adding an additional grade consecutively each year. The pre-k program is a separate program under a universal pre-k program. This is exciting news for a school whose continued success has been marked by a long wait list and long lines at open houses.
The second Hellenic Charter School, HCCS-Staten Island, is modeled after HCCS-Park Slope. Rather than being a different school, with its own mission and academic mores, it is a replication of the first HCCS, which has been designated as a High Performing Reward School by the NYS Education Department and is considered a “model of integration.” HCCS Park Slope is also ranked among the top charter schools of NYC and is profiled in New York City’s Best Public Pre-K & Elementary Schools by Clara Hemphill and Lydie Raschka.
Like its sister school, HCCS Staten Island will take a didactic approach to paideia, using the Socratic model of independent discussion, where the teacher introduces the topic and the students apply their critical thinking skills and analysis to lead the discussion. It’s a way of engaging the student to gain a true understanding of the content studied. Although it is a publicly funded school, like all charter schools, HCCS is unique, having its own identity as a Hellenic school. The school’s mission is to instill in students a love of Greek and a love of classics. Students study both Greek and Latin in their language curriculum.
The HCCS model is designed with three key elements driving its curriculum: a rigorous education that provides challenging content; supplemental instruction with classical studies of Greek language, history, art, and culture, and Latin; preparation of students for long-term academic success so that they will become college ready and well-prepared to succeed and contribute to the global community as responsible citizens.
Partnerships feature heavily in guiding curriculum enrichment. HCCS has collaborated and partnered with Teachers College of Columbia University to provide a strong reading and writing program. Student teachers are sent to the school to assist and observe, and, in turn, HCCS faculty attend professional development seminars throughout the year at Teachers College. All HCCS teachers are NY State certified. In math, students consistently score very high and exceed city, state and district scores on their regents. Assessment testing is done twice a year, in both the spring and fall, to ensure that students are meeting and exceeding NY State standards. Early intervention plays an important role as a support system for students.
The Reading Rescue Program for grades K-2 is just one example of academic intervention. Students receive the services needed to support their learning needs. The Special Education Department provides a “pull-in/pull-out” program for students with Individualized Education Plans or in need of occupational therapy. The HCCS’s relationship with the Special Committee of Education provides any struggling students with the support and services they need to meet the standards set forth and the academic rigor expected of them. In a school that offers double periods of English, math and writing, there is no dearth of education. HCCS graduates continue to receive acceptances each year into the city’s most competitive public, specialized public and private high schools.
In keeping in line with the HCCS’s mission to promote the classics, students take an annual trip to Greece as part of a research project. They also participate in the annual NYC History Day Fair and qualify for the nationals each year, after winning on city and state competition levels. Last year’s performance of Iphigenia, was an ode to Greek mythology and drama.
With a day school program that runs until 3:45 and extended day until 6pm, students have a wide variety of after-school activities from which to choose including The Athena Academy Greek language program which also prepares students for the Greek regents, a marching band ensemble where students learn to play a variety of traditional instruments, and a strong athletic league featuring basketball tournaments, hockey, soccer and the HCCS cheerleading team. Building community, strengthening team spirit, and creating young leaders are all part of the HCCS learning community.
Joy gives great credit to the School Board and the school’s, principal, Christina Tettonis, for their dedication, perseverance, compassion, and continued support of the school. With the new school in tow, Christina will now become the Superintendent of both HCCS schools. Each school will have its own principal under the tutelage and guidance of the Christina and the Board. Joy will expand her role as Chief of Operations for both schools. Could it be that a third school is on the horizon? In the classical world, and as they old adage maintains, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, but in the contemporary world today, a chain of Hellenic Classical Charter Schools could be built over time, where the value of a classical education has infinite wisdom and truth. As addressed in the school’s tag line, students “take knowledge, wisdom, and truth with them to make the world a better place”. HCCS is taking that knowledge and truth into the future of a classical education one school at a time.
For more information about the Hellenic Classical Charter School, their website is visit hccs-nys.org. Upcoming open houses for the 2019 school year will be held on the following dates at 5:30pm:
- pre-k only – February 4
- k-8 – February 7
- k-8 – March 14