Williamsburg Success Academy Charter School Faces Concerned Parents

By Meredith Hoffman | January 11, 2012 5:00pm 

WILLIAMSBURG — The local community board gave a thumbs down to a proposed outpost of Eva Moskowitz's  burgeoning Success Academy Charter School empire Tuesday, an elementary school that is slated to open on Driggs Street. 

At issue in the advisory statement was a plan to co-locate the elementary school, which would serve about 190 kindergarteners and first graders on South 3rd Street, with Junior High School 50.

The board members also said there was a greater need for a middle school in the area saturated with elementary schools.

The proposed Williamsburg charter school is one of three Success Academies to open in Brooklyn next school year, adding to Moskowitz' network of nine city charters.

Parents and community leaders will meet at J.H.S. 50 Wednesday evening to discuss their concerns about the proposed co-location in their building this fall.

And the Department of Education will hold a hearing next Tuesday at J.H.S. 50 to hear opinions on the plan, which was announced in December.

Some community members say the results could be disastrous.

"To have a troubled middle school co-located with a K through 4 school is asking for problems," said Tom Burrows of the Williamsburg community board's education committee Monday night. "We don't need another elementary school—what we need is a quality middle school."

J.H.S. 50 received a C last year has a notably high percentage of English language learners, special needs students, and children receiving free lunches.

The Williamsburg community board is advising against Success Academy's opening in an area where three other elementary schools are in close proximity, and in a building with a high-need middle school. The Academy for Young Writers currently shares the building, but will relocate this fall.

Previous controversies have arisen over other Success Academy schools' openings in Harlem and in the Upper West Side.

But Esteban Duran of the community board's education committee said he was not against Success Academy, nor against another charter school, if it served the elementary population in need.

A Success Academies spokesperson Kerri Lyon said the charter plans to extend to the middle school grades eventually, and that there is a need for good elementary schools in the area. Each year the school will increase by one grade level, with a goal of housing grades kindergarten through fourth in the Driggs Avenue spot and grades 5—8 in another nearby building.

"Yes, you need a middle school in Williamsburg because there's been a huge influx of families moving into the neighborhood over the past 5 to 7 years," said Lyon. "But first you have to educate those kids in elementary schools."

She added that a group of neighborhood parents had requested Success Academy open in their area, and that the school would include a diverse population of students from all over the school district.

"This network has always had a vision of giving families more options," she said, noting that the charter network was the highest performing in the city.

Meanwhile the principal of J.H.S. 50, Denise Jamison, said she will not take sides in the debate.

"I'm focused on student achievement," she said Wednesday morning at the school, as students streamed around her in the hall.