Parents Protest Charter School Network's Expansion in Harlem
HARLEM — Parents from Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx gathered in front of the Lenox Avenue headquarters of Success Charter Network Thursday to protest the school's expansion plans.
Parents fear three Harlem schools — Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing Arts, Frederick Douglass Academy II and Opportunity Charter School — will be slated for full of partial closure to make way for Success schools to expand. All three schools are currently co-located or will be with Success schools
"It seems like every year our space is being encroached upon," said Sharon Charles, a parent at Opportunity where half the kids have special needs. The school is on probation and its charter is in danger of not being renewed.
Former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz launched the Success Charter Network by arguing for the need for good schools in neighborhoods with high poverty and failing grades. Now the network plans to expand into the middle class Brooklyn neighborhood of Cobble Hill.
Melinda Martinez, who has four daughters ages 12 to 16 in the School of International Studies in Cobble Hill, said that because two other schools are already co-located there, she fears the addition of a Success Charter school means her daughters' school is on the chopping block.
"There are not extra classrooms. They will have to give up space," said Martinez. "I don't have a problem with giving parents options, but not at the expense of someone else's child."
Success says there are many parents in Brooklyn and elsewhere who want their services. Success schools have garnered national acclaim and its students are among the top-performing in the city.
"Everyone in our neighborhood with school-age kids knows that there are just not enough great schools to choose from, and anyone who wants to deny these families another public option does not represent my interests or my children’s," said Cobble Hill mother of three Jenna Sternbach in an e-mail. Her son will begin kindergarten soon.
"Instead of challenging Success Academy’s right to open a potentially great school we should be challenging them to get it right and create another good option for our community," Sternbach said.
Success Charter Network did not offer its own comment, and said Sternbach's words would be their response.
Noah Gotbaum, a member of Community Education Council 3, said Moskowitz's expansion into Brooklyn should be viewrd as a troubling trend.
"We are here in front of Eva Moskowitz' office but this is really about Mayor Bloomberg. She is just doing the work of the Department of Education," said Gotbaum.
The rally comes days after professor and activist Dr. Cornel West visited Wadleigh and Frederick Doulgass Academy II and vowed to try to help keep the schools from being shuttered.
Mona Davids, president of both the New York Charter Parents Association and the New York City Parents Union, said concern over the expansion of Success has led parents from district and charter schools to unite.
"We have charter parents and district parents uniting to say she has too much power," said Davids.
The DOE announced Thursday that two Manhattan High Schools had been put on the failing list. The three Harlem schools were not listed but the DOE will announce more schools it wants to close Friday.