Founding History

An influential advocacy organization known as Citizens’ Committee for Children (CCC) released a comprehensive report called From Strengths to Solutions: An Asset-Based Approach to Meeting Community Needs in Brownsville. The researchers engaged individuals living and working in Brownsville to better understand the needs of the community; and, according to the report, children and families in Brownsville not only have a long history of poor outcomes, but Brownsville consistently ranks among the five highest-risk communities for children in New York City. The researchers wanted to find out what drives these poor outcomes and what assets exist in Brownsville that local leaders and community partners can build on to bring change to the community. In the heart of this poor community, in a renovated supermarket, is one solution called Cultural Arts Academy Charter School at Spring Creek. This is a school where children are actively engaged in the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program, a rigorous academic curriculum that is virtually non-existent in neighborhoods with the demographics of Brownsville. It is here that these “K-5 resident-Scholars” are afforded the opportunity to engage in inquiry-based studies using six international transdisciplinary themes as part of their IB-PYP project.

For the last nine years, through its vision and mission for the Brownsville/East New York Community, Cultural Arts Academy Charter School at Spring Creek has been engaged in the defense of the educability of all children; particularly, towards those of diverse backgrounds and against demographical arguments. The task of developing and sharing an understanding of a quality education that our children deserve has been a powerful engagement with real educators, stakeholders and community who are dealing with real challenges. Cultural Arts Academy Charter School’s lottery attracts 141 applicants who qualify for free and reduced lunch. By zip code and lottery preference, nearly 70% of the scholars of the school come from the immediate proximity of Brownsville/East New York, while the remainder travail from Cypress Hills, Bushwick and Bed-Stuy. The majority of the scholars it serves are African American males; and, nearly 30 of the families in the school are grandparents raising grandchildren.

Rooted in the DNA of every child's life are seeds of greatness wrapped in the form of gifts, talents and abilities waiting for the opportunity to be unlocked, discovered, explored and celebrated. The foundation for what would become Cultural Arts Academy Charter School at Spring Creek began in 1989 with Dr. A.R. Bernard, CEO and Founder of Christian Cultural Center and his wife Karen, who decided to create an audacious vision for early childhood education that would profoundly impact the most formative years of a child's learning experience, pre-K-1st grade. For over almost 20 years, Brooklyn Prep students performed consistently in the 90-99th percentile in reading and math on the Stanford Achievement Tests. This was a result of creating a learning environment that fostered growth, development, excitement and results.

Dr. Bernard's vision, leadership and masterful teaching has earned him a local and international reputation for excellence in the area of forging transformative community partnerships and a commitment to the cultural arts. Dr. Bernard and his wife have supported public education in the Brownsville-East New York community and beyond by:

  • Encouraging innovative and carefully monitored reform efforts in the public school system, paying particular attention to governance, funding, accountability, and assessment. Dr. A.R. Bernard sits on the NYC Department of Education Chancellor's Advisory Committee.
  • Emphasizing books and literacy; calling for the broad availability of all age-appropriate materials and books in local public school libraries; and encouraging schools to include information which will broaden students' global understanding.
  • Serving on the Board of Trustees for the Brooklyn Public Library
  • Establishing a literacy program that teaches adults to read.
  • Creating a tutoring program called Synergies for Success that has been open to all students for assistance in all aspects of academic intervention services
  • Adopting schools in the East New York and greater New York City community.
  • Advocating at the state level for adequate school funding and equitable distribution of state funds and encouraging education about local funding ballot issues.

Dr. Bernard, CEO and Founder of Christian Cultural Center and his wife had a desire to develop an even stronger influence on providing quality educational opportunities for children. They decided to combine their visions to create a model for public education in the deserving East New York community by partnering with an award-winning educator and Thought Leader, Dr. Laurie B. Midgette.

Dr. Laurie Midgette was a ward of the state of New York in the Nassau County Department of Social Services foster care system for 18 years. After this experience and in her 30 years of service in the NYC public school system, she affirms that it is, indeed, the civil right of every child to receive an exemplary, standards-driven education. As an educator that has chosen to spend her entire career in the most challenging public schools, Dr. Midgette has many lessons to share and a personal perspective that is aligned with the voices of underprivileged children that cannot speak for themselves. Her educational background is private and public, suburban and urban. She has served as a classroom teacher, assistant principal and principal. These experiences made her know that it was time for her to create a public school of excellence.

Laurie Midgette was asked to serve as the last principal of a large urban high school that had a history of failure. It was part of the trend of large schools that are being phased out and transformed into smaller learning communities. It was her responsibility to lead that change. This school became a model for urban reform in New York City that resulted in winning $20,000 in performance bonuses for improving the academic performance of the students in the school. She served as the lead principal and campus manager as the school was transitioned into a campus of small schools. Part of this process meant collaborating with the other principals to construct a fair and equitable campus agreement for using shared space.

From trusted voices in education, business, and government, as well as from her own experience, Dr. Midgette discerned a need to provide students with new and different skills to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Dr. Midgette believes that if we are ever to truly reform public education in New York City and this nation, there must be a paradigm shift from regulatory compliance to a moral imperative. She believes that it will take all types of leadership to accomplish this task, personally. It was when Ms. Midgette had the opportunity to study at the Principals' Center at Harvard University in 2004, where she became transformed by the provocative teaching from voices that have a vested interest in true and total educational reform. When Laurie Midgette looks at the children that she has been privileged to serve, she cannot help but think that their life could have been hers. These children have no union and their voices are quelled by the loudness of bureaucracy and politics. Looking ahead to the 21st century, it was her desire to create a school that prepares students to not only succeed, but to excel. Cultural Arts Academy Charter School’s mission is to provide a college preparatory education with exemplary cultural arts proficiency (The Arts) to young leaders (Leader In Me) who will profoundly impact the human condition (International Baccalaureate). This is who we are; nothing more, nothing less.