Society of Illustrators hand raisingLogoHarlem Link celebration
Harlem Link Ink Title
Thank you for taking a moment to read The Harlem Link ink, our small bimonthly newsletter.  Please pass it along to those who might be interested! 

Founded in 2005, Harlem Link is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, public school.  Students are admitted by lottery, we collaborate with the New York City Department of Education on a number of issues and policies, and the demographics of our student population closely resemble the district public schools in our neighborhood.
With each passing term, we come closer to meeting our mission of graduating articulate scholars and active citizens.  We hope you enjoy reading about what we are doing to achieve that mission.
Margaret Ryan and Steven Evangelista
In This Issue
One Small Step
Parents Rally for Advocacy
Robert Jackson Visits
Public Lottery Is Coming
One Small Step
Harlem Link Charter School began the violence prevention curriculum, Second Step, this school year and it's off to a fabulous start.  The lessons are facilitated by classroom teachers, Social Workers, and Associate Deans.  The Dean of Culture and various Leadership team members have joined in on the fun and made cameos during the "role-play" section of the lessons.  The staff and students have had a great time while learning crucial lessons regarding peer interactions and anger management.  The lessons help students attain various social skills, such as: empathy, problem solving and anger management. 

JR & JMOne First Grader noted, "I love Second Step.  I learned that when I make people sad, I can say sorry and they can accept my apology if they want to!"  The empathy training incorporated facilitations which allowed students to look outside their feelings and see how their actions can affect the feelings of others.

Students continue to transfer the skills and techniques learned both in the classroom and throughout the day when they are having a difficult time making safe choices.  Dean of Culture, Ms. Carroll, works closely with students to problem solve throughout the school day and stated that, "Students have begun to independently use the Second Step calming techniques and problem solving skills.  They have made the connections between their lives and the skills they learned."
Ms. Carroll's words echo the long-term positive effects shown by a recent study done in Seattle by the University of Washington.  The study showed that elementary school programs of this type lead to better mental health and economic status fifteen years after they are implemented.  While many intervention programs focus on middle and high school and difficult adolescent years, common sense and now research tells us that learning these skills and mastering our emotions in early childhood has real impact.

For all of our students, Second Step has proven at Harlem Link to be a step in the right direction!
Parents Rally for Advocacy
On February 2nd, parents from Harlem Link and charter schools New York State mapacross New York State had the opportunity to engage in civic activism by visiting Albany for the state association's annual Advocacy Day.  The New York City JR & JMCharter School Center co-sponsored the day (Executive Director James Merriman is pictured at left with Harlem Link founding board member John Reddick), which brought over 750 people to the state capital to express support for charter schools!  A delegation of eight Harlem Link parent and board members met with key legislative officials: State Senator Bill Perkins and a communications director for State Assemblyman Keith L. T. Wright.
During the visit, our delegation accomplished a great deal.  Assemblyman Wright's office was unequivocally supportive of the school, and promised to continue to work to benefit all of his district's public school options.  We will continue to work to strengthen this powerful relationship.  Senator Perkins was more cool about supporting charter schools, but he promised to follow up and visit Harlem Link.  While he stated, "I don't begrudge any parent for advocating the best possible situation for their child," he also expressed a concern that the presence of charter schools would not help the larger system, especially if the improvements made by charter schools are only incremental compared to the district public schools.  We have a mountain of data to the contrary!  And we most certainly have invited Senator Perkins to come and see the magic at Harlem Link for himself; we are confident he will change his mind, at least about this one small school in his district.

Perhaps most symbolically, two parent leaders also had a chance to meet with Harlem Link's state authorizer.  It was a long walk on a cold day from the Capital Building to the SUNY Charter Schools Institute's office, but it was worth it for parents to be able to speak directly to those who regularly make decisions about their child's school options.  Dr. Jennifer Sneed (and later, in-house counsel Ralph Rossi) took a half hour out of her increasingly busy schedule to explain the charter application and renewal process and to answer any questions they had.  She pointed out that Harlem Link is about to engage in a rigorous and difficult renewal process to justify the continued existence of the school. 

Since Dr. Sneed represents the office only two steps removed from Governor Paterson himself in terms of authority over charter schools, her gesture demonstrates that with SUNY charter schools, parents have a direct line to high-level decision making that has simply not been possible over the years in the byzantine district public school system.  The parent impression of Harlem Link's ultimate authorizers?  "They were so nice!"  
Parents at Advocacy DayWhether it was helping to pack the Hart Auditorium at Albany's The Egg building (right), telling the truth to State Senators or listening to charter school authorizers, Harlem Link parents made quite an impression at Advocacy Day!
Councilmember Robert Jackson Visits
Harlem Link is showing off the positive impact of our students' learning to both state JR & JMand city legislators.  On January 22nd, Harlem Link earned a new friend in City Councilmember Robert Jackson.  Councilmember Jackson visited Harlem Link for the first time, spending nearly two hours at our Lower School.  He participated in lessons along with the kids in kindergarten and first grade.  He sat on the rug and got to put on his thinking cap twice, in two different classrooms.  (Maybe he'll need 'em for testy City Council politics!)  
JR & JMWe believe that Councilmember Jackson left very impressed with Harlem Link.  He certainly left an impression on the kindergarteners (left), who had no idea what a jokester they had for a city councilmember!  In sum, he noted that the school is a safe place and that it is evident that children are learning.  We wanted him to see that Harlem Link, as a small community institution that was founded by teachers with input from parents, represents an important option for families in the New York City public school system.  He certainly agreed.
Public Lottery Is Coming on April 7
Once again, Harlem Link has arranged its public admissions lottery schedule to participate in the New York City Charter Center's citywide lottery day.  This year's date is Tuesday, April 7.  By having multiple school lotteries on the same day, schools who participate make it easier for families applying to more than one school to have all the information they need early on to make an enrollment decision. 
This year, due to our growth, increased citywide publicity about charter schools and the ongoing parental demand for safe, rigorous schools, Harlem Link expects a record number of applications.  Each year the school has received more than twice as many applications as available seats, and that number could grow exponentially this year to four or even eight applications for each seat. 
For this reason, and to support the charter movement and parental choice generally, Harlem Link encourages families to research and apply to as many charter schools as they can visit that suit their values.  A list of all New York City charter schools is located on the SUNY Charter Schools Institute website.
Parents can apply to Harlem Link by downloading our pdf application, or by visiting the school.  We are also hosting information sessions on the following dates:
  • Weds, Feb. 25th, Lower School, 425 W 130th Street, 9 am
  • Tues., March 10th, Lower School, 425 W 130th Street, 6 pm
  • Mon., March 23, Upper School, 134 W 122nd Street, 9 am
The application deadline to be eligible for the lottery is 5 pm on April 1, 2009, and parents should note that under the charter law, residents of Community School District 3 have preference for admission.  Please help us spread the word!
In Closing
We have some exciting events coming up in addition to the 2009-10 lottery.  Contact us to learn about Read Across America, as we celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday on March 2nd.  (This event will also help us combat test anxiety by letting our students celebrate reading with inspirational guests, the day before the state mathematics exam!)
Also, 18 Harlem Link students will be performing with rapper Nitty, who is a parent at Harlem Link, at Harlem Charter Night at the Armory on Wednesday, March 18.  Our performance is called Nitty and the Linksters.  Thousands will be in attendance in this celebration of parent choice!
We hope you enjoyed a little more insight into our school and would consider coming by to visit.
Director's Blog: Test Anxiety
When I talk to prospective parents and family members about our school, one of the things I always bring up is test anxiety.  I want families to know how important it is for us, both on an individual student and team/school level, that each student succeeds on the state assessments, but that we have an approach that views state tests rationally and calmly.  My personal view is that standardized tests are a useful snapshot of how well a student and a school is performing; they are here to stay, and succeeding on them entails a set of skills that will serve students well for the rest of their lives.  However, they are only a small part of any complete assessment picture.  
When I tell families our formula [Good Curriculum + Sensible Test Prep - Test Anxiety = Success] and I get to the part about test anxiety, there are nods all around.  Test anxiety happens because adults are complicit in heaping unnecessary insecurity on children.  The pressure felt and expressed by school leaders, parents, and teachers inevitably trickles down to children. 
One of our teachers, who taught at a different elementary school last year, went back to visit his old colleagues and students prior to the state English Language Arts exam.  He had a good time visiting, but noted the tension everyone felt, from teachers to administrators to students, with the test looming.  "How calm everyone is at Harlem Link," he realized, but not for lack of care. 

Most people who don't spend a lot of time in public schools probably intuitively sense that school should be serious and about learning, but should also have an element of fun and joyfulness.  But they probably don't understand how much test anxiety can be an unseen menace.   This year, despite our efforts to the contrary, a third grader who wasn't otherwise ill vomited on the day of the state test - both on the school bus and then again at school.  She was so nervous that she had to go back home that day, and was able to take the test during the make up period with fewer students around and less pressure.
Think about how hard it is for some adults to demonstrate their skills under pressure.   It's my view that, from elementary school tests to SATs to professional competency exams, test anxiety threatens to hold all of us back from showing what we know best.  With the right attitude and confidence, we can all achieve more.
Corporate Supporters
Harlem Link would like to thank City National Bank for the support we have received from their Reading is The Way Up® program over the last three years. Through this program, we have been able to purchase much needed reading materials for our school.
Additionally, several of our teachers have applied for support this year from the Reading is The Way Up® Literacy Grants Program to enhance curriculum and actively engage students in meaningful learning experiences.

We are also thankful to Corcoran Cares, which has also provided grants to Harlem Link since 2007 out of Corcoran's office on Frederick Douglass Boulevard.

These are only two among our many supporters who have made our school the success story that it is.
Support Our Cause
You can join our list of supporters.  As a charter school, we are our own, single-school public school district.  Because of the charter funding formula, we depend on private donations to supplement our state tuition allocation, and in the coming years anticipate raising as much as 25% of our budget in our Annual Fund.  Tax-deductible donations can be made to our fund by clicking here.
Title Art Credit
Harlem Link celebrationFourth grader Mark Griffith is making a splash at Harlem Link.  He designed the title art for this newsletter.
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