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Hundreds Attend Heated Hearing on Success Charter School Co-Location

Tensions were high at a public hearing on the proposed co-location of Brooklyn Success Academy 3 at 284 Baltic St.

Success Charter Network already operates nine charter schools in New York City, and last night, the Department of Education moved forward with its

At the proposed co-location site for the charter, the school building located at 284 Baltic St. in Cobble Hill, hundreds of parents, educators, students and elected officials rallied for nearly five hours against the proposed co-location of a K-4 school in the building. While some supporters of the charter school were in attendance, they were outnumbered.

Many times the crowd, holding signs that read "Co-Locations: Seperate and Unequal" or "Charters = Privatization and Inequity," would erupt with collective booing and hissing, or applause, depending on which side of the debate a speaker was on. The crowd was loud and at times, forceful in their opinions. One man, who said he was a teacher, shouted profanities, and was escorted out by police.

The fight that played out last night is the latest in a long-running series that is taking place between local school districts and the city Department of Education under Mayor Bloomberg. Schools and districts often fight to keep charter schools from co-locating in public school buildings - sometimes successfully as at - but more often than not, the charters are approved by the Panel for Educational Policy, which votes with Bloomberg, a charter school supporter. 

The views of those who spoke at the meeting were varied. Some said the Success Charter Network couldn't be trusted because in their initial application to the SUNY Charter School Network they had applied for charters in Districts 13 and 14, citing a need for better schools and more options for parents in those districts.

The original charter applied for features a lottery system that gives preference to "at risk" students (low income or English Language Learners) in Districts 13 and 14. Success Charter network needs approval from SUNY if it wants to amend that language, which, according to Tom Franta from SUNY, the charter has said it intends to do.

Eddie Rodriguez, a Sunset Park resident and a member of the District 15 Community Education Council, said he opposed the charter in Cobble Hill, and said there was a much greater need for seats in other areas of the district, including his neighborhood, and the South Slope. And although the charter will be open to students from all over the district, Rodriguez said parents from the far corners would not attempt to send their youngsters so far.

“My neighbors, most of them don’t even speak English, are not going to send their kindergartners to BoCoCa,” he said.

Sternberg disagreed.

"Parents will do anything to provide a high quality education for their child," he said. "Regadless of race, regardless of anything."

Many in attendance were teachers, students and parents with kids who attend the middle and high schools currently located at 284 Baltic St.: the School for Global Studies and the School for International Studies. They voiced concern that the schools would become overcrowded if the Charter moved in, and indeed, Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg said the school would operate at 108 percent capacity when the school was fully enrolled, with upwards of 1,700 students.

"You will choke the progress of Global Studies," said one speaker. In the past year, Global Studies has gone from a .

But the DOE says the building has room for more students. In 2010-2011, the building served 913 students, with a "building utilization rate" of just 57 percent.

A teacher at Global Studies, Clare Daley, said with the charter in the building, students will have to share common areas like the gym and cafeteria that are already crowded. Some students will have lunch at 10:30 a.m. and others at 2:30 p.m., she added.

Elected officials also voiced opposition to the co-location, including Assemblyman Jim Brennan, City Councilmembers Brad Lander and Steve Levin, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Female Democratic District Leader for the 52nd Assembly Distric Jo Anne Simon and Assemblywoman Joan Millman, who has proposed a different idea for the district: an early education center for kindergarten and pre-kindergarten age children.

Sternberg said Millman's proposal "could be another terrific idea" from District 15, but said the DOE had never received an official application.

But Millman said there was no application to be filed.

"We're going to present it tonight. There's no other process that i've seen. I spoke to a lobbyist for the DOE and he said "We're not considering that,'" said Millman. "It's all top down."

Sternberg said, as has Success Charter Network, led by former City Councilmember Eva Moskowitz, that the growing number of Kindergarten aged children in the area, evidenced by the high number of applicants to PS 29 and PS 58, is what sparked the network's interest in opening a school. 

Jim DeVor, President of the District 15 Community Education Council, said Millman's alternative proposal should be considered.

Before the hearing, a rally was held outside the school. Holding signs that were all drawn with the same markers, more than a dozen parents that live in the district said they supported the charter and want more options for their kids.

"The community needs it, Gowanus needs it, I want them to open this school up," said Serice Vaughan, a resident of the Gowanus Houses.

"The anti-charter school forces should not be allowed to shut down schools," said Red Hook resident and mother of two Lisa Chamberlain, who tried to open a charter in her neighborhood last year but was defeated. "It [a charter] injects competition in what is otherwise a monopoly. People want choices in doctors and in car insurance," they should have a choice in education, too.

Jeff Tripp, a teacher at the School for International Studies and a member of the Community Education Council, expressed dismay in the hearing at how a charter school operating within the realm of public education could be so seemingly unequal.

"When Eva Moskowitz takes home $350,000 and the number of homeless students is through the roof that's unethical, immoral, that is not success!" he said, his face bright red.

The crowd roared in approval, with many jumping to their feet, shouting "Shame! Shame!"

 

The Panel for Educational Policy will vote on this proposal on Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. at Newtown High School, 4801 90th St., in Flushing, Queens. Note location change, which was announced last night.

Giacomo December 01, 2011 at 08:53 PM
Charter Schools are another weapon of the corporate right wing to kill public education altogether. Don't believe me? Would you believe it from GW Bush's former Asst. Education Secretary? "Education historian Diane Ravitch blasted the education-reform movement as a "well-funded, well-coordinated campaign to privatize as many schools as possible" during a sold-out speech in Seattle on Thursday night. During an hourlong appearance, Ravitch criticized teacher-evaluation systems as "crazy," called the No Child Left Behind Act "the death star of American education" and argued charter schools "divide communities." "American public education is under attack," Ravitch said. "False claims are made about achievement. False claims are made about teachers. False claims are made about what's needed to improve the schools." Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education for President George H.W. Bush and an early champion of education reform, eventually concluded the reform movement was misguided and led by corporations. Amen sister.
GalBklyn December 03, 2011 at 04:13 PM
The meeting was a shame. The DOE is violating the law and spirit of permitted charters. And we all know this wouldn't be the first time. The man that yelled profanities was a supporter of the charter school -- so Carroll Patch do mind your misleading comments. If he was a teacher -- it was for Eva. The community does not want the charter 'option'. That was very very clear. So Note to Eva and her potential employees- you can't steal this school no matter how many buses you hire. It will not happen.
KWood December 03, 2011 at 06:11 PM
GalBklyn - I think you may have been sleeping, at a different meeting or purposely trying to tie the offender to the Charter to give it a bad rep. Truth is that the man with a shaved head that was screaming profanities, interrupting speakers, chanting #occupy slogans and arguing against overcrowding was an OPPONENT of the Charter. U can wake up now!! I also question how many "opponents" at this hearing were actually from district 15 versus supporters of the Teachers Union.
park place December 04, 2011 at 09:24 PM
Chalk me up as another parent who is disgusted by what SCN and the DOE are doing here. SUNY says SCN is obligated to the D13 and D14 preferences they signed up for, but they almost immediately targeted D15 and are blantantly saying they're not promoting the school to 13 or 14 but instead to D15 - and the DOE and SUNY seems fine with it? Despite that it goes against the justification for D13/D14 school in the first place? The whole process is a sham. Of course, every time an opponent mentions the bait-and-switch, it presumes the legitimacy of the D13/D14 strategy and gives the DOE/SCN a leg up for when they inevitably DO try to co-locate in D13 or D14, when they'll again pick a gentrifying area that has functioning schools and no desire for one of SCN's sweatshops. And a convenient excuse not to provide support to the current schools in D15 that DO need help. As an aside, how is it that opponents of this school are getting unfairly "personal" when they question the motivations of charter supporters, but it's okay for Eva herself to pen a snide and childish piece in the paper accusing all opponents of being tools of the unions? And it's fair to accuse union members of personal motivations in their opposition too? Sorry, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
park place December 04, 2011 at 09:47 PM
How is it that this school would bring "true diversity" to the neighborhood's classrooms? Is 261 not diverse? 58? If other neighborhood schools aren't as diverse, it's because the UMC parents have turned up their noses at schools with a higher percentage of minority and lower income families. Tell me one thing that is attractive about SCN schools *except* that by means of the lottery, the DOE support, and the extra money, they promise to cream many of the UMC parents looking to escape from the families who are their actual neighbors? Take a look at the composition of BNS, Community Roots, and Arts & Letters over time to see what I mean. At least those schools have educational approaches consistent with what UMC parents all claim to want. SCN? Not even close. Of course, when all the kids of the motivated parents are gone from the local schools, and the ELL and special ed kids can't leave, and when SCN has "counseled out" those who can't follow the rules or don't score well and returned them to the zoned schools, what will you have left? A Brooklyn full of local schools composed of the most challenging students, with the least clout and the least ability to fight for resources, the students with the highest needs, whom charter schools were supposed to serve! SCN won't touch them with a 10 foot pole, but is happy to have them learning in the hallways. I am not prepared to let a handful of UMC parents whining about "choice" do this to my neighbors, or to our city.

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