CPCS Basketball

Our fabulous Coaches Hassel and Reilly!

Our fabulous Coaches Hassel and Reilly!

As CPCS has developed, so has the offering of sports and other after school programs. Under the leadership of Coaches Ryan Hassel and Stephen Reilly, our boys’ basketball team has become another reason Cheetah pride is thriving. With an amazing 4-0 record for the Cheetahs so far, the start of their season is a testament to their hard work.

As they continue to grow in their skills, the Coaches report that the team is working hard everyday and has improved dramatically since they began playing. During practices, the team works on fundamentals such as dribbling, passing, and shooting. With many of the scholars being new to the game, the coaches are making sure they get the basics down before getting into anything more complex.

“We have a great group of boys who challenge themselves and each other to be better everyday,” commented Coach Hassel.

Scholar Demetrius Brown leads in scoring, averaging over 8 points per game. There are four more games left in the season, and plans are in the works to host another home game at CPCS. With limited space in our gym, families of the basketball team and cheerleading squad are invited to join these events for now.

The next away game for the Cheetahs is on Thursday, January 31st at 5:15 p.m. at Merrick Academy. Please join us there in support of our great basketball team.

Go Cheetahs!

Go Cheetahs!



Staff Focus: Eunice Armstrong

A few weeks ago, we welcomed Ms. Eunice Armstrong as our new Director of Finance to Challenge Charter Schools. Recently we had a chance to find out a bit about Ms. Armstrong and how in this key role, she brings her experience and leadership to bear.

Q: What excites you most about being a part of the Challenge Charter Schools staff?

Armstrong: I am excited to be a part of such a dynamic and caring team, from the educators to the administration who work tirelessly to provide a world class education, especially in Far Rockaway.

Q: What is your background in financial leadership?

Armstrong: I have almost 10 years financial experience in the non-profit & charter school sector, particularly with helping these types of organizations with budget management & operational system creation. Grant management has also been a significant part of my experience with city, state, and federal level funding & compliance.

Q: What hobby or activity do you spend time on when you're away from work?

Armstrong: I spend my free time engaged in charity work with some of my favorite organizations like The Bowery Mission.

Q: With the recent holidays we wonder, what is your favorite holiday treat?

Armstrong: My favorite holiday treat is eggnog, perfect for holiday gatherings.

Miracle on Hartman Lane

Our annual Winter Show, held on Friday, December 14th at 9:00 and 1:30, included a retrospect of our history as a school from the beginning to today. The Miracle on Hartman Lane started a little over eight years ago when the vision of Rev. Dr. Les Mullings along with key leaders and community support came to fruition.

Under the direction of Music Johnson, K-5 scholars performed selections by grade and wore clothing to go with the theme chosen for their grade level. Songs included popular hits such as “Holiday,” “I’ll Be There,” and “A Million Dreams.” Music Banks and Principal Griffin served as narrators for the history of Challenge Preparatory Charter School as families filled the gym to standing room only.

Banks reflected on memories such as the opening day of the school on August 23, 2010. Just two years later, the school was rocked by the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and had to move to a temporary space in Brooklyn. Even as the school dealt with its own damage and thousands of dollars of lost books and supplies, Dr. Mullings led Challenge Prep to reach out to a community in great need. Looking back, we humbly began with less than twenty employees serving three grades and now have over 100 employees serving almost 800 students.

Great thanks was expressed for Dr. Mullings and his great vision that continues in our proposed expansion for the 2019-20 school year. Several employees and advisors that have been with Challenge since the beginning include Lonzil McClean, Denise Cummings, Jacqueline Ward-Brew, Tameeka Richards, Music Banks, Senior Advisor Michael Estep, and Founding Board Member Ben Waxman.

The show ended with the traditional “12 Days of Christmas” in Challenge Prep style as started by Music Banks years before. Our Middle School Winter Show will end in similar fashion as it is performed on Wednesday, December 19th at 10:00A.

We thank all the families that attended and our great staff for their hard work to create a fabulous Miracle on Hartman Lane.

CPCS Winter Show

We are pleased to announce our annual Winter Show which will take place on Friday, December 14th at 710 Hartman Lane. Two identical shows will be performed at 9:00A and 1:30P. K-2 families are encouraged to attend in the morning, and 3-5 families in the afternoon.

The theme of this year’s show is Miracle on Hartman Lane and our K-5 scholars will be performing seasonal favorites and popular music from diverse genres such as the Jackson 5 and The Greatest Showman.

We hope to see you there!

CPCS Winter Show 2018

CPCS Winter Show 2018


New Art Teacher: Traci Gautier

Our New Teacher articles let you get to know our new teachers as we welcome them to Challenge Charter Schools this year. Ms. Gautier was a long-term sub before becoming our Art Teacher, and we are glad she has joined our staff to teach this creative and important subject.

Ms. Gautier in the art room teaching our scholars.

Ms. Gautier in the art room teaching our scholars.

Why is it important our scholars learn about and participate in art classes?

It is important that our scholars learn about and participate in art because it helps them become more creative, confident, focused and helps them to use non-verbal communication. I tell my scholars all the time when you open up your creative side, you can use it for Writing, ELA and even Math. So when they tell me they can't, I want them to prove to themselves that they can.

What are some of the upcoming art projects for this year? 

One major upcoming project I have in mind is a school wide art auction where the scholars will be able to create artwork and have their artwork bid on by the parents.

What is your favorite color and why?

My absolute number one favorite color is blue! I like any and every shade of blue, it's just so calming and soothing. I painted my son’s bedroom blue, and my dishes in my home are blue. Even my pots and pans set is blue. It's just a color that makes me happy. It makes me feel like I'm on an island or in California LOL.

What one word or short phrase describes your focus for the 2018-19 academic year?

My phrase that describes my focus for the 2018-19 academic year is: "It's not about perfection, it's about effort.” 

Staff Focus: K-5 AP Jasmine Shepherd

At Challenge Charter Schools, we have a number of staff members in support roles to help our scholars and teachers do their very best. Recently, I had the chance to learn more about K-5 Assistant Principal, Jasmine Shepherd and her unique role at Challenge Prep. Shepherd’s own growth through education and mentorship have taught her the value of hard work and perseverance, and she brings those qualities to her work each day.

Messer: In your role as Director of Curriculum and Instruction, what are some of your daily activities, and how do they benefit the school/scholars/teachers?

K-5 AP Jasmine Shepherd

K-5 AP Jasmine Shepherd

Shepherd: I work very closely with teachers by providing them with daily feedback on lesson plans, execution of their instruction, and by deep diving into our curriculum to ensure that teachers understand our curriculum and know the benefits of our program. In addition to coaching and developing teachers, I spend a lot of time researching best teaching practices and preparing professional development sessions to further advance our staff in their craft. The more confident our teachers feel with lesson planning, lesson executing, and understanding our curriculum the more our scholars will benefit.  

Messer: Name a person who was a positive influence on your career and why/what they did to help you?

Shepherd: My mentor who is currently a principal of a middle/high school in Queens has had a positive influence on my career as he has planted strong leadership seeds in me and has supported me through some of the toughest moments in my career. Through his mentorship I've learned to persevere and to work hard for what I want. I've learned from my mentor that there is nothing too hard to achieve as long as I put my mind and heart to it I can achieve it.    

Messer: What excites you most about education?

Shepherd: Being able to see my growth as an intellectual excites me most about education. I've come such a long way to where I am now, simply because I had a great education and have chosen to continue with furthering my education. Education has also allowed me to visit many places through my imagination. I am able to have intellectual conversations with my counterparts about many different topics because of the many things that education has exposed me to.

Messer: What is your favorite hobby or one thing that people might be surprised about you?

Shepherd: I enjoy going food shopping. Food shopping is therapeutic to me as I go through each aisle of my local supermarket looking for great deals on items that my family enjoys eating.  I could spend two hours walking up and down the aisles of my supermarket.




8th Annual Harvest Feast

November is filled with great and important events. Don’t miss Parent Teacher Conferences on November 7 and 8. Be sure to grab some great books at the Fall Book Fair, November 13 through 19. And our 8th Annual Harvest Feast organized by our Parent Association is on Friday, November 19th at 6:00P. RSVP by Friday, November 9th to reserve your family’s seats. Space is limited and tickets are first-come, first-served!

Harvest Feast Flyer

Harvest Feast Flyer


Get to Know New Teacher: Shariah Bottex

Ms. Bottex

Ms. Bottex

Our New Teacher articles let you get to know our new teachers as we welcome them to Challenge Charter Schools this year. This week, Shariah Bottex from Class K13 tells us what Italian dishes get her vote and why making learning fun is so important.

What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?

Bottex: My favorite thing about being a teacher is being able to build the foundation for scholar's education and helping them grow as respectful, well-mannered young people.

How do you feel when you see a scholar learning something for the first time?

Bottex: I feel overjoyed, accomplished, and proud when I see a scholar learning something for the first time. I know that I am doing my job correctly when they can comprehend and execute new learning tasks.

What is your favorite food to eat?

Bottex: My favorite food to eat is my Mom's spaghetti and my sister's manicotti! Also, my homemade cheesecake.

What one word or short phrase describes your focus for the 2018-19 academic year?

Bottex: We always have fun while growing and learning. I say this because I put emphasis on learning being an enjoyable experience. As a child, the one thing that made me want to learn and keep coming back to school was that I enjoyed my time there. We never really know what a scholar may be experiencing at home, so it's best to make school a safe, positive, and fun environment for them.

Challenge Charter Schools’ Project Character in 2nd Year

Champ works with our scholars to explain the Word of the Month.

Champ works with our scholars to explain the Word of the Month.

In 2017, the Challenge Charter community was introduced to a new version of the school’s mascot. Champ the Cheetah was no longer a 2-dimensional drawing, rather he had come to life as a puppet to visit the K-5 scholars on a regular basis teaching character curriculum at assemblies and special events.

With the start of the 2018 academic year, Project Character has grown to offer even more components. In addition to the monthly video featuring Champ and Principal Griffin as well as Parent Resources on our website, now teachers have lesson plans tailored to grade levels to help scholars understand the Word of the Month (WOM) as Responsibility, Citizenship and Kindness.

As Champ’s character began to take shape in 2017, CEO/Founder Dr. Mullings immediately saw the potential for offering a very unique way to approach teaching good character traits to students. Dr. Mullings worked with Steve Pennington and Senior Advisor, Michael Estep to develop Champ as a high-value investment in the lives of the scholars at Challenge Prep.

“We are always looking for ways to enhance learning. It shows up in the way we infuse technology into the classroom, the data-driven tailored learning we offer, our extra-curricular activities such as athletics and performing arts, and through our mascot Champ. We are dedicated to the whole child, and the development of Champ and Project Character shows how much we value raising great global citizens through our school,” said Dr. Mullings.

Pennington has been an educational entertainer and curriculum developer for more than 30 years. He is Champ’s biggest fan as the “man behind the puppet,” and this year, he is working more closely with scholars as they are featured in the monthly curriculum videos. The videos are a coordinated effort with K-5 administrators and the school’s Community Program Manager, Vicky Rosario.  

“I am always amazed at the depth of understanding all of our scholars bring to the video shoots that we are doing. We are taping unscripted conversations with the scholars and they are so much fun. Champ and the scholars are discussing the meaning of the different character words. They get it and are right on cue with their responses. It’s terrific!” Pennington stated.

Citizenship is the Word of the Month for October.

Citizenship is the Word of the Month for October.

K-5 Principal, Nicole Griffin, has had plenty of up close and personal time with Champ during the WOM video shoots. In each video, she and Champ define the word and talk about what it looks like to live out that character trait in the context of CPCS. Principal Griffin has been pleased to see the success of Project Character over the past year.

“Challenge Prep is a very unique school in which we believe that education isn't only about learning subjects such as math, English, and science. A more comprehensive definition of education addresses the emotions, personality, and character as well. We adopted the approach of teaching good character traits to create a caring and supportive environment, to encourage scholars to develop morally and provide opportunities to grow morally and to promote core ethical and performance values to instill good character in scholars. From the fun, yet educational assemblies with Champ, our scholars have embraced this approach to learning,” said Griffin.

Parents are encouraged to visit our website for downloadable resources and the video for each WOM. Videos are also posted to our K-5 Facebook page. Families can benefit from utilizing the home activities and watching and discussing the videos with their scholar which reinforces good character and behaviors at home.

Champ’s live appearances will continue in assemblies throughout the school year.