Five groups recently submitted proposals to run Roosevelt Island’s Beacon program, a free after-school program based in PS/IS 217 and managed by the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD). Although there’s no way to know which group may ultimately be awarded the three-year contract, it has become clear that one group will not – longtime program operator Roosevelt Island Youth Program (RIYP).
PS/IS 217 Principal Mandana Beckman informed RIYP on Wednesday that she would not sign off on its application. In a change from previous years, the DYCD now requires that school principals approve each applicant before their proposal can be considered by the department.
Principal Beckman released a statement regarding the RFP on Thursday assuring Islanders that, “Our school community at PS/IS 217 will continue to benefit from the Beacon program and its resources.” She also underscored the new protocol, “Principals need to sign-off on a School Partnership Agreement (SPA) to ensure a strong relationship between the school and the Beacon provider. Proposals will not be considered without the principal’s signature.”
The DYCD has been administering Beacon programs throughout the City since 1991. And for nearly all that time, Charles DeFino, executive director of the Roosevelt Island Youth Program, has also served as executive director of the Island’s Beacon program.
Beacon programs are school-based community centers serving children aged six and older, as well as adults. There are currently 80 programs located throughout the five boroughs of New York City operating in the afternoons and evenings, on weekends, and during school holidays, including the summer. The contract offers $472,000 for the first year of programming (covering the 10 months that school is in session). Roosevelt Island’s Beacon program is hosted by PS/IS 217.
All Beacon programming is free. That will continue to be part of the Beacon mandate, regardless of which group is awarded the contract.
This year, the DYCD changed its application process to require that the principal of the host school sign off on all applications. According to the request for proposals (RFP), the change is based on evidence that strong relationships with the host school is a hallmark of successful Beacon programs. “Accordingly, a school partnership agreement between the nonprofit provider and host school principal is a minimum requirement for this RFP and must be submitted with the proposal,” explains the RFP. “If the signed school partnership agreement is not submitted, the proposal will be deemed non-responsive and will not be evaluated.”
To comply with the new requirement, Mandana and PS/IS 217’s School Leadership Team (SLT) interviewed all of the Beacon applicants to hear their proposals. (Composed of an equal number of parents and school staff, an SLT develops educational policies for its school and aligns resources to those policies. SLTs must meet at least once a month and provide ongoing evaluations and assessments of a school’s educational programs and their effect on student achievement.)
“I followed the new DYCD procedures,” says Beckman, when asked if she had anything to do with the new requirement. “I didn’t ask for that change. The [Department of Education] shared with principals what the new protocol was and what the new expectation for us is.”
The principal of the host school may sign school partnership agreements with multiple proposers; however, the DYCD will only award one contract per eligible school.
Another local organization, Island Kids, which is run by Nikki Leopold, was also recently informed that its application would not be moving forward. In addition to RIYP and Island Kids, the school committee also heard presentations from the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center, Community Association of Progressive Dominicans, and the Child Center of New York.
Originally due on May 24, the deadline for Beacon proposals has been extended until June 6, so it is possible other groups could step forward.