Cynthia Rosario grew up in the Bronx and had 16 years of experience as a teacher, staff developer and school counselor before she was authorized to open a public charter school in the Bronx.
But her hometown advantage and career experience didn’t make mastering public school facilities issues easy. Each step of the way — from finding a temporary startup space for her school to building a permanent space to financing her facilities — was a challenging process full of hard decisions.
Rosario said she had to defer the opening of her school by a year when she found out two weeks before the charter school lottery that the public space she wanted to share with a traditional district public school was no longer available. She and her board scrambled to find a space, working with commercial real estate agents, but, she said, “We didn’t even know the questions to ask.”
Rosario ended up putting her opening on hold so she could find the space that her students and teachers needed.
“It was disappointing to a lot of families that were already interested in our school,” she said.
The next year, with support from the Walton Family Foundation, Rosario opened Heketi Community Charter School in a shared space with another charter school, serving a population that was 33% African American, 65% Hispanic and 92.5% eligible for free and reduced price lunch. She named the school “Heketi” after the Taíno word for “one.” Taínos are the indigenous people of the Caribbean, representing the heritage of a large portion of the Spanish-speaking population in the South Bronx she was serving.