Art for education

Charter school prepares for fifth Annual Spring Gala

If you can get a discount on something, why pay retail? This rule applies whether one is talking about a great pair of shoes or an amazing piece of artwork.
Next weekend, smart bargain hunters might want to pop over to the Beacon – at 4 Beacon Way, off Montgomery Street – for the Learning Community Charter School (LCCS) Spring Gala. The annual art auction paints two canvases with one brush: it simultaneously raises money for the academic institution and allows the larger Jersey City community to buy great art at a significant discount.
For this year’s Spring Gala, the fifth the school has held, 22 pieces of original artwork will be auctioned off, including works by spray paint artist Fred “Ree” Vilomar, pop artist Eva Moll, filmmaker/photographer John Dunstan, digital photographer Tracey Rice, and painter Heidi Curko.
“We have a lot of parents who are artists here and they have connections. So, most of the art is local,” said school Administrator Brittin Bleakley. “All of the art is donated by the artists, and they either donate their work 100 percent to the school, or they do a 50/50 split. The starting bids are very low because we want members of the general public to attend and have the opportunity to participate.”

For this year’s Spring Gala, the fifth the school has held, 22 pieces of original artwork will be auctioned off.
Bidding for some pieces starts as low as $75 or $150.
For the first time, the silent art auction will include a look book that was made available to prospective bidders last week.

Auction helps fill funding gap

LCCS is a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade institution that, like other charter schools in New Jersey, is a tuition-free public school.
The Spring Gala was born five years ago, Bleakley said. When LCCS received a $250,000 matching capital grant from the Manhattan-based William E. Simon Foundation, the donation was both a blessing and challenge. A blessing because the grant would enable the school to purchase a new home for its campus; a challenge because it meant LCCS would have to raise thousands of dollars to match the grant.
Necessity being the mother of invention, the school’s development director at the time, Shelley Skinner, and parent Jennifer Van Doren Hughes created the Spring Gala concept to help the school match this grant.
Today the gala lives on, even though the grant was matched and the new building was purchased several years ago.
“As a charter school, we don’t receive the same level of funding as other public schools. So every year, we have to raise about $65,000 to meet our operating costs,” Bleakley noted.
Charter schools in New Jersey are supposed to receive 90 percent of the per-student cost allocated to students in other public schools. But charter schools in Jersey City sometimes receive as little as 50 percent of the per student costs allocated to other public school students. In 2011, four Jersey City charter schools – Ethical Community Charter School, Golden Door Charter School, Community Charter School, and Soaring Heights Charter School – sent a 29-page petition to New Jersey Education Commissioner Chris Cerf demanding that these institutions receive the funding they deserve.
Separate from the money needed for operating costs, LCCS also has annual appeals which raise money for specific needs. The annual appeal for the 2012-2013 school year is for technology.
While the school holds fundraisers throughout the year that collectively bring in more than $100,000 annually, the Spring Gala is the school’s main fundraiser. In 2012, the LCCS Spring Gala – which is held each year in the Great Room at the Beacon – raised $19,000.
This year’s event will include entertainment from Neville L’Green and musicians from his Language of Music school and a high-end raffle that will include such prizes as an iPad 2, and iPad Mini, Yankees tickets, a Pocanos getaway, and a weekend stay at the Benjamin in New York City, which comes with a $300 food gift card.
Tickets to the gala are $50 and can be purchased at the door or in advance by e-mailing Bleakley at While most gala attendees have in the past been members of the LCCS community, members of the public are welcome and are encouraged to attend, said Bleakley.
The gala begins a 6 p.m.

E-mail E. Assata Wright at

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