Success Academy, DOE Square Off Over Middle School Space

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Success Academy Charter School officials and parents once again locked horns with the de Blasio Administration and the Department of Education – this time over the siting of middle school space for five Success elementary schools.

SA officials and parents from two of the schools -SA Williamsburg and SA Cobble Hill – held a large protest on the steps of City Hall yesterday demanding the de Blasio Administration and the DOE let them know where permanent middle schools for the charter network be located as soon as possible for the next school years.

“The fact that it’s gotten to this point is outrageous,” said Amie Sepaniak, an SA Williamsburg mom. “There’s nothing better for my children’s future than Success Academy middle schools, and whether that’s politically inconvenient for the mayor or not, it’s his duty to give our kids a chance.”

Eva Moskowitz
Eva Moskowitz

“The mayor claims to represent all kids, but he treats charter school families as second-class citizens,” said Success Academy founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz. “Two years ago, he had no difficulty finding 30,000 new pre-k seats. But when the city’s highest-performing charter school network needs space for existing students to continue their education, the mayor is suddenly unable to accommodate them.”

But the night before the press conference, the DOE issued a letter stating the city has sited two locations for the five elementary schools – SA Crown Heights, SA Fort Greene, SA Prospect Heights, SA Williamsburg, and SA Cobble Hill – to utilize for middle schools.

The letter noted there is no current need for additional space for 5th graders in any SA schools for the 2017-18 school year, as the charter network has expressed a preference for K-4 and 5-8 models for their schools. However, the DOE has found two Brooklyn colocations, that if the Panel for Educational (PEP) approves them at their January 2017 meeting, would serve as middle school hubs for students in grades 5 through 8.

This would provide two new options in Brooklyn for families during your middle school choice process. Your projections indicate that SA will need 465-540 middle school hub seats next year to serve rising 5th and 6th grade students from the Brooklyn Schools. The buildings we are proposing as sites for such hubs have the potential to serve more than 1,000 students at scale and satisfy your projected 2017-2018 seat need for grades 5 and 6 from the Brooklyn Schools.

Both the DOE and Success officials refused to disclose the locations for these middle schools as negotiations are ongoing.

DOE plans to post proposals for these co-locations this month and have the PEP vote on them in January 2017.

But Success officials say that the two locations will not be big enough for a final buildout of their students in grades 5-8 and that they would need three schools, forcing them to relocate again within the next couple of years. The entire process is just another example of the de Blasio Administration and the DOE stonewalling and dragging their feet to allow adequate space for charter schools, the allege.

The Success advocates note that in both SA Williamsburg and SA Cobble Hill, more than 98% of the children who now need middle school space passed the 2016 state math exam — compared to 36% of students citywide. If parents are forced to send their kids back into the district system, their choices will be poor: In Districts 14 and 15, there are only four district middle schools out of 22 where even half of sixth graders met state standards in math, they say.

But DOE spokesperson Devora Kaye replied that the DOE has been constantly working with SA and other charters in a good-faith effort to find space, and that Success officials are grandstanding. The letter sent the day before the protest is the result of ongoing discussions, she says.

“The fact that we’ve already told Success this process is underway makes these political accusations fall flat. We’ll continue to maximize the equitable use of public space and funding for all children in New York City,” Kaye said.

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