Op-Ed: Success Academy Mom Asks De Blasio To Do Right Thing

Several up and coming chess master Brooklyn students from Success Academy schools participated in the program.

Five years ago, I sat in a Hunter College library, hunkering down for an exam. I was an undergrad then, and I wasn’t yet sure what my son’s educational future held. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught an unusual sight in a university library: a dozen adorable first graders clad in bright orange uniforms touring the space and asking questions.

Who were these children? Why were they here? What kind of school plants the seeds of college dreams so early?

I was impressed and curious, so I asked their teacher my questions. She responded proudly: We are Success Academy.

When it came time for my family to think about school for my son, Zion, I thought back to that experience at the library.  And with a new Success Academy school opening a few blocks away from where we lived in Fort Greene, I knew we had to do everything we could to get our son into one of those orange uniforms.

Part of the Success Academy Bed-Stuy 1 Class that had the best math scores in the state tests last year. The school entrance is situated on a side street halfway between NYCHA's Tompkins And Marcy housing developments.
Part of the Success Academy Bed-Stuy 1 Class that had the best math scores in the state tests last year. The school entrance is situated on a side street halfway between NYCHA’s Tompkins And Marcy housing developments.

Zion is now in fourth grade at Success Academy Fort Greene, and his experience there has been everything we’ve wanted and more. He’s developed into an independent thinker; a creative artist; an enthusiastic chess player; a talented actor — in fact, he just starred in a Success Academy production last week. And Zion is not just college-bound; he’s on the path to pursue whatever he dreams, because Success Academy has instilled in him the understanding that the world is full of possibilities.

So given how important Success Academy is to my family, I’m outraged that Mayor de Blasio is once again using stalling tactics to deprive Success Academy families of adequate space for our middle schools. With another crucial deadline looming on December 2, time is running out for the Mayor to do what’s right.

It’s really a simple problem with an obvious solution: Success Academy needs three middle school buildings in Brooklyn so that it can have full, grade 5-8 middle schools. Yet, despite the Mayor knowing this, his proposal falls short by hundreds of seats for middle school students like my son.

Instead of providing a long-term solution, Mayor de Blasio is offering Success students the absolute bare minimum. With such little space provided under Mayor de Blasio’s plan — two locations, when three are needed — Success would outgrow the space after just two years. This means  Zion and his classmates might be on the brink of educational homelessness once again. That’s incredibly disruptive to his education and an unreasonable stress to put on families.

Perhaps even more frustratingly, we know there is plenty of space available — 12 buildings to be exact, and each with at least 500 empty seats. So, this isn’t some type of practical or logistical issue for the Mayor — it’s a political one.

The Mayor’s actions over the past few weeks simply defy logic and reason.

When there are so few high quality schools available in these neighborhoods, what kind of elected official would  try so hard to obstruct the growth of a great public service with massive demand? With 44,000 families stuck on charter wait lists, shouldn’t the Mayor be searching for ways to help identify more spaces for high-performing charter schools?

The Mayor’s strategy in negotiating with Success Academy has been disgraceful — covering his own political bases while ignoring the needs of our city’s children. Mayor de Blasio is supposed to represent all New Yorkers and all children, no matter if they attend a charter or district school.

I often think back to that day in the Hunter Library, to how excited I felt that something like Success Academy was accessible to my family. We had hope then, and Zion’s growth over the past five years at Success makes me even more hopeful for his future.

But unless the Mayor does what’s right, that’s all at risk.

I call on Mayor de Blasio to represent my son and thousands of other hardworking families who just want what’s best for their children. The space is there, and it’s time for Mayor de Blasio to provide Success Academy with a reasonable, adequate solution for its middle schools.