First, there is the heartwarming story of the kids at I.S. 318 in Williamsburg, who are the stars of the new documentary Brooklyn Castle, highlighting the improbable success of the school’s chess team.
Despite budget cuts that should have sunk the club, the students and parents worked tirelessly to keep the club funded. And despite the odds, the school has had huge successes on the national level, competing against richer schools with more resources.
And not only is the success of the chess club paying off in tournament titles, kids involved in the club are better students, too, setting their sights on going to the city’s top high schools, something they might not have considered possible before the chess club taught them that success was indeed within their reach.
On the flip side of the coin is Dr. Susan S. McKinney Secondary School in Clinton Hill, where a proposed charter school is threatening to drastically scale back a burgeoning arts and music program at the school.
The charter school would take up the entire third floor of the building, space that is currently used for the programs that one student described to us as taking her and her classmates “one step further to their dreams.”
These are tough economic times, and not every single program can be saved, but the city needs to work on keeping art programs in the schools. It could make the difference between an average student and an exceptional one.