Harlem Educator Upset After Space for New Public School is Taken by Charter School

By Jeff Mays on March 28, 2011 4:09pm 

KIPP supporters hold up signs at a Panel for Educational Policy hearing.
KIPP supporters hold up signs at a Panel for Educational Policy hearing.
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DNAinfo/Patrick Hedlund

By Jeff Mays

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

Eadt HARLEM — Supporters of the Central Park East 1 public school in East Harlem are crying foul after space they were promised to open a new school in Washington Heights was given to KIPP, the largest charter school chain in the country, the New York Times reported.

Julie Zuckerman, principal of Central Park East 1, a progressive school, was invited to Department of Education headquarters in January and congratulated on being one of 30 principals chosen to open a new school. Zuckerman's new school, which was to be called Castle Bridge, was allocated $40,000 in start-up funding and given vacant space at P.S. 115.

But then a DOE superintendent awarded the space to KIPP. The earliest Castle Bridge — which was to serve 200 kids, 10 percent of whom have a parent in prison— would get space for a school is 2012, the DOE said, according to the Times.

"Everyone knows the DOE favors charters," Kevin Guzman, who runs the Little Idea pre-K with his wife in Washington Heights and supports Castle Bridge, told the Times. "It was David versus Goliath."

Castle Bridge, like Central Park East 1, would not focus on standardized tests. Students would be encouraged to delve deeply into topics. KIPP is a fundraising powerhouse with long days that emphasizes standardized test preparation.

Marc Sternberg, a deputy superintendent for the DOE, denied there was favoritism in an email to the Times.

"We can always improve our process around planning," Sternberg said. "KIPP has run some of the best schools in New York City for 15 years, and we think this school is going to be an excellent option for Upper Manhattan families."

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