Parents and students stand behind SI charter school principal they say improved their school

STATEN ISLAND (WABC) -- Parents and students are taking on New York City Schools to try to keep their charter school on Staten Island open.

Their once failing test scores have improved dramatically.

When Melissa Young and her daughter, Arianna, left the Staten Island Community Charter School Tuesday, it was straight home to do homework.

"My grades are better," Arianna said.

"The teachers are good, they help a lot," a student said.

The students are eager to talk about the school and so are their parents.

"Since our principal Dr. Garcia got there, she has turned our school around," Melissa Young said.

So why is the Department of Education determined to close a school so many feel is finally working well for low income, mostly minority students?

"Urban education is beautifully challenging work. It's beautiful in all its rewards and when kids learn and when kids are excited, and all the challenges speak for themselves, but at the end of the day, I can rest my head knowing that the work that I do matters," said Dr. Nicole Garcia, the principal.

Dr. Nicole Garcia came from Washington, DC to run the school just a year and a half ago.

And she admits, the school was failing and test scores were down.

The DOE said in a statement Tuesday night, "Its performance continues to lag behind other schools on Staten Island. We are working with students and their families to ensure they have a high quality school option for next year."

But Tuesday night, the principal showed Eyewitness News the newest numbers, since she's been in charge.

"Fourth grade at the beginning of the year was at 35% proficiency, and last week at their last testing for the year they were at 47%. 56% for third grade now they are reading at 80%," Garcia said.

She says virtually all the most recent tests show that kind of improvement. And she knows she can do so much more, if they'll just give her time.

"I could have made the decision to go forward and do something else. I had the other offers, but that's not where I want to be. This is where I want to be, my heart is here with these kids, my heart is here in Staten Island, my heart is with this school," Garcia said.

The students and parents are planning a rally next week and are petitioning the DOE to keep their school open.

But the Department of Education says no matter how much they rally, no matter how much the parents care, this school won't be there for them next year.
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