Thursday, December 1, 2011

Explosive Cobble Hill Success Academy Hearing

Guess it was no surprise that Success Academy charter school chain founder Eva Moskowitz was nowhere to be seen hiding in the back of the rowdy hearing held in the School of Global Studies auditorium Wednesday night.

Hundreds of seething  District 15 parents hissed and chanted over the course of the event, which lasted at least four hours.

The hearing was designed to give parents and advocates a chance to comment -- for the first time -- on Moskowitz's plans to co-locate one of her Success Academy charter schools in the complex at 184 Baltic Street (near Court) that already holds three schools: Brooklyn School for Global Studies, School for International Studies and P.S. 368 for special ed children.

DOE says there is almost enough room to fit the charter school's grades K-4 in the facility (this will bring the complex to 108 percent capacity), but even DOE admits there is no room for the planned fifth grade.

Parents and teachers said the facilities are maxed out already, especially after the federally-financed turn-around of Global Studies. Over the course of one year Global Studies has gone from an F on its school report card to a B, and hopes to expand. "But we will not be allowed to grow with another school in the building,” said teacher Clare Daley.

Teachers said that there was barely enough time in the gym for the middle and high schoolers to get their mandated PE in before they graduated. DOE plans to give Success Academy one third of the gym time the first year, when they will only have a kindergarten and first grade in the building. "That is only year one. How will our students get time in the gym as they expand?” asked Jeff Trip, a teacher at International Studies.

Parents also said the needs of the children at the special-ed school, P.S. 368, were not taken into account in the Environmental Impact Statement.

A Few Interesting Notes

In between the yelling (and after one man was hauled away by the police) several adversarial exchanges between Jim Devor, president of District 15’s Community Education Council, SUNY Charter Institute’s Tom Franta and Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg brought out a few surprising points.

One, SUNY doesn't care that Moskowitz changed her mind about serving the poor and underserved children of District 13 or 14 after she got a hold of the charter. When District 15's Devor asked if someone could go through the charter process in Bed-Stuy and and then turn around and open the school in far-away Dyker Heights, Franta said "Yes."

To SUNY all of Brooklyn is apparently the same neighborhood.

 Two, DOE thinks that Sunset Park parents will put their five-year-olds on buses to send them to school in Cobble Hill. "Parents will do anything to give their children a good education," Sternberg said in response to Devor's repeated questioning about why the school is not put in a neighborhood where it is actually needed.

“My neighbors, most of them don’t even speak English, are not going to send their kindergartners to BoCoCa,” said Eddie Rodriguez of Community Education Council 15.

Three, Moskowitz decided where to put the school, not DOE. At no time did DOE assess any needs, or ask any District 15 representatives what the district's needs were.

A small number of Success Academy supporters held a presser before the hearing.
A half-dozen or so charter school's supporters held a press conference before the hearing. They said that Success Academy looked like a good school option for their children, and said there were not enough slots for kindergarteners in their neighborhoods.

There is an urgent need for more pre-K and kindergarten space in District 15 and across the city. Kindergarten is not mandatory in New York State. Since first grade is mandatory, all children are accepted into their zoned schools, but this is not true for kindergarten.

Assemblywoman Joan Millman and others have come up with an alternate plan which would house an early childhood center of limited size in the building, instead of the K-4 academy.  More on that here.

Read more about this story:
Carroll Gardens Patch
Brooklyn Eagle
New York Times
Gotham Schools

Photos by MK Metz

Go to McBrooklyn's HOME PAGE


Anonymous said...

The report truly highlights the most important points put forward at the hearing - a terrific summary. Thanks,

mcbrooklyn said...

Thanks for your comment. Appreciate it.