Alma del Mar Charter School Annual Report 2014

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Dear Friends, Alma del Mar (“Soul of the Sea”) began with a group of us who were driven by a set of shared beliefs, among them that kids in the City of New Bedford are just as capable as kids anywhere and, that given the opportunity, they will become the leaders that this city and this world so desperately needs. We called on you - our supporters and friends, near and far - and you joined us in acting on those beliefs.


As Alma enters its fourth year, we do so as a school with a cohesive model, strong culture and a growing track record that attests to the power of those original beliefs. We now know that when we combine the best practices of “no excuses” urban charter schools with Expeditionary Learning’s in-depth approach to teaching content, we see brilliant results. By traditional measures, our scholars are proving that they are no less capable than their more affluent peers. This past year’s third graders outperformed not only the state average on the math MCAS, but also most of the surrounding suburbs. Another measure of our scholars’ achievement is the high quality of the work they produce here. Anyone who reads our Kindergartners’ field guide to vernal pools, available at the Buzzards Bay Coalition Center downtown, is astounded by our young authors’ depth of knowledge and the level of detail in their scientific drawing (see Belief 4 for more examples of this kind of work).

Beliefs in Action

As we look to the year ahead, we are focused on building Alma into an institution that outlasts any individual here today and that guides every single one of our scholars to high achievement. For our academic program, that means addressing our identified gaps. Many of our scholars, especially those in our lead cohort, are not yet strong enough writers to effectively communicate their increasingly sophisticated thinking. That’s why this year we’re increasing the emphasis on expository writing based on high level texts throughout our curriculum. From an organizational standpoint, building a lasting institution will mean further investment in our incredible teaching talent. By rapidly developing our new teachers and providing meaningful opportunities for our veterans to grow and lead, we will add to our phenomenal teaching team and build a deep bench for the future. Operationally, the year ahead holds the challenge of expanding our facilities to ensure we can provide space for our school as we nearly double in size over the next three years. We are excited about our recent purchase of our school building and its 2.3 acres of land, which is the first important step toward our long-term expansion. We are pleased to present to you our Annual Report for the 2013 - 2014 school year. In it we’ve distilled our work down to Six Beliefs in Action. These are the guiding principles that make Alma the incredible school that it is today and the beacon that lights the way forward for the next part of our journey. If you have been with us these past three years, thank you for acting on your belief in the potential of our scholars. If you are new to Alma, let this report be an invitation to join our “crew.” The scholars and families on these pages look forward to your continued support as we commit to the challenging and fulfilling work ahead. Sincerely,

Will Gardner Chris Arnold Executive Director Chair, Board of Trustees


New Bedford kids can achieve at the same level as kids anywhere.

Many believe that the correlation between high poverty and low academic achievement is immutable. At Alma, we challenge that belief. For our scholars, zip code does not determine destiny. Results of the 2013-2014 MCAS show that Alma scholars are already outperforming their peers in New Bedford and are performing on par with students in more affluent areas.

Breaking the Pattern: Academic Achievement vs. Poverty Marion


Alma del Mar


High Achievement/ Low Income


Dartmouth 60%


Low Achievement/ Low Income

New Bedford


Fall River








3rd Grade Achievement level*


High Achievement/ High Income

Low Achievement/ High Income

40% 10%

% low income *Combined average percent scores proficient and advanced on third grade 2014 ELA and Math MCAS.


of our scholars will be the first in their family to graduate from a 4-year college.

Our Kindergarten scholars scored in the 99th percentile in reading and 97th percentile in math on a nationally normed test.*

Alma fourth graders outperformed their New Bedford peers by 14% in Math and 12% in Literacy.**

*ITBS 2014 **MCAS % proficient and advanced


An inclusive school is a stronger school.

It is too often the case that those students with the greatest needs have been denied access to the most rigorous schools. Alma is a high quality educational option for those families who have traditionally had no other option but a failing neighborhood school. 79% of our scholars come from lowincome families. Our percentage of English Language Learners is more than twice the local district average. And once our families experience education at Alma, they stay with us. Last year, our rate of attrition was less than 4%, far lower than most comparable urban charter schools.

Multi-Race, Non-Hispanic, 7%

Student Profile

100% 79%


African American, 20%




White, 29%

40% 20% 0%

38% 25% 22%


20% 14%


6% 8%

First Language English Language Low-Income not English Learner Alma del Mar


New Bedford

Hispanic, 44% Students with Disabilities Massachusetts


Our teachers become great through hard work and practice. Great teachers are not born; they are made. With this in mind, we invest heavily in the support and training of our teaching talent. Alma teachers receive weekly one-on-one coaching meetings and feedback. In addition, our teachers receive 1 1/2 hours of targeted training every week. Our Associate Teacher Program develops newer teachers by allowing them to gradually take on more responsibilities alongside veteran colleagues.

“We chose not to leave New Bedford because of Alma.

We were going to move, but then my son started at Alma. It’s such a wonderful school. I’m so thrilled with what he’s learned and how well he’s done. Alma del Mar is helping him become a well-rounded student and a well-rounded person.”

- Alma Parent

Meet Ms. Palmieri, Kindergarten Lead Teacher

“I started out as an Associate Teacher. The program offered me an opportunity to learn and be mentored by other classroom teachers. I thought this was an incredible opportunity for my development and growth as a teacher. I was observed and was provided with tons of feedback so that I could continue to get better. I gained much confidence in the classroom because the teachers were all so positive and supportive. The program gradually prepares you to take on a Lead position by the end of the year. You learn each day and take on responsibilities a little at a time. I hope that all of my students continue to be motivated to go above and beyond, to reach for their dreams, to live the life they all hope for.�

4 Opposite Page: second grade whale Expedition greeting card watercolor and text; Top Left: first grade American symbols Expedition greeting card art work; Top Right: third grade forces of nature Expedition field guide art work; Bottom Right: kindergarten vernal pools field guide Expedition art and text. All scholar work presented here was completed as part of an Expedition final product and involved research and the completion of multiple drafts.

The work scholars do today matters.

In many schools, the student work ends up in the recycling bin at the end of the day. At Alma del Mar, we expect every scholar to do work of which they are truly proud. Our scholars complete multiple drafts of essays, critiquing each others’ work in order to improve its quality. We focus on real work.First graders learn about argumentative writing and then write letters to elected officials to advocate for change in their communities. Fourth graders study the Holocaust and then explore the role of stereotypes and prejudice in society. Our scholars do their best work because they know that it will be important to an audience beyond their classroom.


The arts are not extras; they’re essential.

Alma scholars are also artists and musicians. They study great painters such as Rothko, van Gogh and Warhol, and then create works in their style. They packed Gallery X downtown with an exhibit of their sculptures, watercolors, oil pastels, and pencil sketches. Music instruction begins in kindergarten and intensifies in 3rd grade, when every one of our scholars has the opportunity to take up a string instrument.

Self Portrait in the Style of Vincent van Gogh, Katherine Veenstra, second grade

In 2014, The Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education named Alma del Mar a model school in the areas of Access and Equity, and Culture and Family Engagement.


99% of parents agree: “My scholar is learning what he or she needs to know to be on the path to college.” 97% of parents agree: “I feel welcome at Alma del Mar.” 95% of parents agree: “Alma offers me opportunities to be involved in my scholar’s education.” June 2014 Parent Survey

Parents care. It’s our job to engage them.

At Alma, we’ve found that the secret to having engaged parents is to meet them where they are. That means we start the year by conducting home visits with every one of our families. With their school-issued cellphones, our teachers are on call every night. Parents and scholars don’t hesitate to call or text with even the smallest questions. Many of our parents also engage in service at Alma. Whether they are organizing uniform swaps, introducing new families to Alma with a pancake breakfast or attending our weekly Town Hall assembly, our parents model our mission of cultivating service-minded leaders.

“I truly feel blessed to have the opportunity to send my children to a school where they are not only receiving an excellent education, but are being mentored by a remarkable team of caring teachers and staff. Thank you, Alma del Mar, for everything you do for our children and for helping to ensure they have a bright future ahead of them!” - Tracy Setzler Sylvia, mother of Ryleigh and Morgan, ‘27


Marguerite Aleardi Rachel Arruda Sallie Barker Barbara Bedell Laurence Bedell Donna Bourassa Gilbert Cabral Margo Connolly Amanda Constant Bronwen Cunningham Carol Dildine Priscilla Ditchfield Jason Falk Pam Garnett Chris Gendron Barbara Haddad Linda Lacroix Sally Lemelin Steven LePage Melissa Linhares Lourenco Lopes Madeleine McGuire Kathy Melven Drew Nahigyan Lynne Nahigyan

Kathe Parker Jane Rioux Lecia Seablom Amy Seroussi Martha Cary Shuster Jan Stewart Meredith Swan Damian Szulc Anne Zeigler

We sincerely apologize if anyone has inadvertantly been omitted from the lists contained on this or any of the following pages.

Alma del Mar greatly appreciates the support of volunteers. Volunteers fill many important roles in the Alma community, including assisting with office tasks, helping in the after school program, and serving as mentors.

Our mentors play a vital role in the social, emotional and academic development of our scholars. Mentors are volunteers from the community who meet weekly with the same scholar after school and develop a strong relationship with them over the course of the year.

The mentoring program is designed to reinforce what our scholars need most: the mindset and skills to be successful. Mentors act as an additional caring adult in scholars’ lives and provide them with crucial academic support. The relationship mentors form with their scholars will help scholars build their selfesteem and belief in their own potential.

For more information about our mentoring program, contact Cara Beller at

COMMUNITY PARTNERS: AHA! Night Alderbrook Farm AmericaReads Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory Barry Burbank Buttonwood Park Zoo Buzzards Bay Coalition Clinton United Methodist Church Cohen Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies at Keene State College Coggeshall Farm Museum Community Boating Center, Inc. Connecticut Science Museum Councilor Steven Martins D&D Caterers Delano Landscaping Dibble & Sons Domino’s Pizza (Ashley Blvd.) Eastern Fisheries Gallery X GiftstoGive Immigrants’ Assistance Center Jeff Kulie Melissa Masse Mayor Jonathan Mitchell Mobile Loaves and Fishes New Bedford Art Museum New Bedford City Council New Bedford Symphony Orchestra New Bedford Whaling Museum Normans’ Enterprises Construction Co. NorthStar Learning Centers Ocean Explorium Originally Stuart Our Sisters’ School Plimoth Plantation Polished, LLC Preferred Concrete Providence Children’s Museum Renovation Rentals Rep. Robert Koczera RJF Development Rodrigues Brothers Towing Roger Williams Park Zoo Halle Rogers Schwartz Center for Learning Sen. Mark Montigny Sharing the Harvest Stonewall Farm Southcoast Music Together Tabor Academy Sally Taylor Teach for America - MA UGLY Gallery University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Walmart - North Dartmouth Stephanie Weinraub

Whaling City Kids Wrestling Winbergs True Value Working Waterfront Festival YMCA Southcoast YogaKids YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts Zeiterion Performing Arts Center

Thank you for all you do for our scholars!

Fiscal Year 2014 Income Tuition (MA Department of Education) Government Grants & Funding Nutrition Funding Private Support Funding Student Programs & Miscellaneous Fees Interest / Investment Income Total Income Fiscal Year 2014 Expenses Personnel Costs Administrative Costs Instructional Services Other Student Services Operation & Maintenance of Plant Other Fixed Charges Community Services Total Expenses

$2,335,675 $213,148 $128,317 $557,880 $2,095 $291 $3,237,407 $1,528,516 $164,665 $412,708 $471,441 $211,833 $88,596 $7,520 $2,885,280

2015 Funding Sources Per Pupil $2,000


Your Support

Government Funding

The cost of educating an Alma scholar this past year was approximately $13,750, excluding capital expenses. The public funding received was roughly $11,750 for each student. This left a funding gap of $2,000 per pupil, generously donated by private donors and foundations.

Thank you to our 2013-2014 donors! FOUNDATIONS & CORPORATIONS: Acushnet Foundation Amelia Peabody Foundation Bristol County Savings Bank Foundation Daily Good Eastern Charitable Foundation Enable Hope Foundation George H & Jane A Mifflin Memorial Fund Harbor Oaks Foundation ICF Business Operations Center Island Foundation JB Fernandes Memorial Trust I Jim and Bess Hughes Fund Kendall Family Foundation Leonard & Hilda Kaplan Charitable Foundation Lynch Foundation New England Educational Foundation NorthStar Learning Centers, Inc. Patrick Carney Family Foundation Rainy Day Fund Seymour H Knox Foundation, Inc. St. Aidan’s Chapel Target Upstream Foundation

PLATINUM STAR SCHOLAR SOCIETY ($10,000+): David & Victoria Croll Adelaide Griswold Lucile Pillow Hicks Jim & Bess Hughes John & Doris Ludes Steven & Martha Cary Shuster GOLD STAR SCHOLAR SOCIETY ($5,000 - $9,999): Sidonie Haines

SILVER STAR SCHOLAR SOCIETY ($1,250 - $4,999): Chris & Patricia Arnold Toby Baker Mary Jean & Bill Blasdale, in memory of Albert E Paladino Barbara Cook Bronwen Cunningham & Robert Booth Ed & Barbara Haddad, in memory of Susan Woodcock

Lucile Pillow Hicks Jim & Bess Hughes Nan Johnson Martha Kay Dennis Keefe Lucy Keefe BRONZE STAR SCHOLAR SOCIETY Trudy Kingery ($500- $1,249): Ted & Nancy Kurtz Charles & Christina Bascom Jim Mathes & Lucy Strattan Mark & Elizabeth Bono Kathy Minnock Karyn & Ben Campbell Drew & Lynne Nahigyan Elizabeth Chapin & John Grummon Charlie & Faith Paulsen Loretto Crane, in honor of Arthur David Prentiss & Lucy Iannotti Huguley Tom Quinlan Priscilla & Allan Ditchfield Hon. Armand Fernandes, Jr. & Patricia Mark Rasmussen Steven & Martha Cary Shuster Fernandes Paul Sullivan Marguerite & Will Graham Kris & Jim Tomlinson Jennifer & Rupert Grantham Marjorie & Nick Greville SUPPORTING DONORS: David & Maria Harrington Anonymous, in honor of Alexander Prentiss & Polly Higgins Santos, Jr. Heidi & Arthur Huguley Anonymous, in honor of Angelea Depina Lucy Keefe Anonymous Trudy Kingery Joseph & Marguerite Aleardi Randall & Elizabeth Kunz Lisa Amaral Lois Pais Terry Aufranc John Pannell Sallie Barker Charlie & Faith Paulsen Larry & Barbara Bedell David Prentiss & Lucy Iannotti Heather Campbell Tom Quinlan Charles & Kathy Carter Roger & Jane Cheever ALMA COLLEGE CHAMPIONS: Mark & Sackett Cook, in honor of Anonymous Arthur Huguley Jonas Peter Akins Deborah L Daigle Chris & Patricia Arnold Peter DeWalt Toby Baker Tim Donohue Charles & Christina Bascom Timothy Dyer Mary Jean & Bill Blasdale Nancy & Jim Edwards, in honor of Joyce Louise Calnen Arthur Huguley Karyn & Ben Campbell Arline & Roy Enoksen Sheila Powers Converse Russell & Laurie Fearing, in memory Barbara Cook of George R Fearing David & Victoria Croll Kathryn Ford Bob & Vickie Cunningham Bronwen Cunningham & Robert Booth Jennifer Francis Seth & Dorothy Garfield Steven & Cathy DeRossi Gail Coppins Gettens, in honor of James & Carol Dildine Michael Hirschfeld Kathryn Dinneen David Gilbertson & Carolee Matsumoto Priscilla & Allan Ditchfield Cynthia Goncalves Matthew & Diane Downey Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez Will & Laura Gardner Samantha Green Marguerite & Will Graham Sandra & William Hewitt Jennifer & Rupert Grantham Frederic & Johanna Hood Adelaide Griswold Michael & Ruth Jolliffe David & Maria Harrington Drew & Lynne Nahigyan Albert & Susan Paladino Kris & Jim Tomlinson Hans & Anne Ziegler

Linda Lacroix Barry & Sherry Leiwant Allison R Lorentzen Robert Massoud Michael & Jane McHenry Blaine & Claire O’Connell Elaine Ostroff Andrew Pappas James & Kathe Parker The Pothier Family Bill & Pauline Raposa Cynthia Redel & Michael Esposito Genie & Don Rice, in honor of Alice Rice Perkins & Mark Perkins Jane & Peter Rioux Scott & Anne Robertson Joanna Ross & James Forrest Anthony R Sapienza Mark Schmid, in honor of Arthur Huguley Carlos Serpa Trisha Slattery Elliott & Antra Thrasher Peter Wallace Neal Weiss Lisa Yates

BOARD OF TRUSTEES Chair: Chris Arnold

Secretary: Mary Jean Blasdale Treasurer: David Cabral

Members: Janice (Jan) Baptist Bronwen Cunningham Martha Kay Jim Mathes Lucile (Cile) Hicks Kristine Tomlinson

ADVISORY COUNCIL Chad Brubaker John Camera Karyn Campbell Barbara Cook Priscilla Ditchfield Ed Haddad Jim Hughes Gerry Kavanaugh Dennis Keefe Jay Lanagan Judith Li Rob Massoud Carolyn Ozcan David Prentiss Mark Rasmussen Ralf Rho Maria Rosario Anthony Sapienza

Learn. Lead. Serve. Succeed!

26 Madeira Ave. New Bedford, MA 02746 Phone: 774-206-6827 Fax: 774-206-6833 Photo credits: Josephine Sittenfeld