Harlem Public School Parents and Teachers Under Attack

By Jeff Mays on March 1, 2011 7:03pm 

Parents and teachers of Sojourner Truth School students came out in force against Harlem Success Academy's expansion plan.
Parents and teachers of Sojourner Truth School students came out in force against Harlem Success Academy's expansion plan.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Jon Schuppe

By Jeff Mays

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

HARLEM — The parents and teachers at Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem say their problems seem to be coming in waves.

First, the Panel for Education Policy voted last month to allow the Harlem Success Charter School to expand there next year, against the wishes of many of the parents. And now, the school is slated to lose 16 percent of its 25 teachers if proposed layoffs go through.

"It's dangerous to be a public school student in Harlem," said Marquis Harrison, 25, a third-year, eighth-grade social studies teacher at the school. "The mayor is limiting the opportunities of students in Harlem by closing schools and laying off teachers and pushing charter schools."

Schools in Harlem will be hit hard if the teacher cuts are approved.

District 3's schools in West Harlem and the Upper West Side would lose 8 percent of their teachers overall, as would District 5 schools in West and Central Harlem. East Harlem's District 4 would lose 9 percent of overall teachers, including 15 percent of their intermediate school teachers. Of those schools, the Esperanza Preparatory Academy is on deck to be the hardest hit, losing 42 percent of staff, or 11 out of 26 teachers.

"It's going to be bad. The class size will be too big," said Kim Austin whose daughter is an 11th grader at the school. "The layoffs are unnecessary. They need to find the money. Maybe they could if they weren't spending so much energy and money on charter schools."

Last month, the PEP panel voted to allow Harlem Success Academy to add a sixth grade in the coming year at the West 118th Street building it shares with Sojourner Truth School. That school is only scheduled to lose one teacher. Eventually, the school would add seventh and eighth grades and expand into a new building on West 114th Street that is currently occupied by Wadleigh Secondary School for Performing Arts and Frederick Douglass Academy II.

The panel also voted to close Academy of Environmental Science Secondary High School on East 100th Street, I.S. 195 Roberto Clemente on West 133rd Street, KAPPA II on East 128th Street and Academy of Collaborative Education on West 134th Street.