Brooklyn Parents Protest Plans for Two New Charter Schools

By Meredith Hoffman on February 28, 2012 2:09pm 

Two more charters proposed for North Brooklyn in 2013 are already meeting opposition.
Two more charters proposed for North Brooklyn in 2013 are already meeting opposition.
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Chris Hondros

WILLIAMSBURG — A newly formed group of Brooklyn parents is fighting the latest plans for a charter school they say will damage their existing public schools.

The 150-member Williamsburg Greenpoint Association for Public Schools wrote to the Citizens of the World Charter Schools to protest the Los Angeles-based network's plan to open two elementary charter schools in north Brooklyn by fall 2013.

Citizens of the World has links to Eva Moskowitz, founder of Success Academy, which is also planning to move into the neighborhood.

Moskowitz's husband, Eric Grannis, has been holding outreach events in the new schools' proposed enrollment area.

"It speaks volumes about this guy that he's Eva Moskowitz's husband, because they have the exact same agenda — to bring down public schools," claimed local mom Brooke Parker.

The two schools, whose locations have not yet been determined, would each start serving 120 to 160 students in kindergarten and first grade, and would grow by their fifth year to each include 360 to 480 kids in kindergarten through fifth grade.

According to the SUNY State Charter Authority, Citizens has so far only submitted its letter of intent. It has not officially applied to open the schools.

The deadline for charter applications is Wednesday.

In the opposition group's letter to Citizens, parents argue that the community needs no more corporate charter startups or elementary schools, and it claimed the network has not provided a chance for legitimate feedback from residents.

Parker said she worries the charter schools would accommodate fewer special needs students and English language learners than traditional public schools, while draining resources and attention from other public schools.

"This is the biggest issue in the neighborhood. We don't want this to be another New Orleans where there are mostly charter schools," Parker said.

Recently, parents have also fiercely opposed Success Academy, which is slated to co-locate in South Williamsburg's Junior High School 50.

The support Citizens has gotten from Grannis' organization, the Tapestry Project, has sparked even further distrust of the proposed schools.

"He's held exclusive meetings in high-rise developments and in a baby boutique," said Kate Yourke, a Williamsburg mother, about the outreach done by Grannis.

Lorna Feeney, another local mother, criticized Grannis' outreach method of posting promotional information on a parent Internet group, Brooklyn Baby Hui. She called it "deceptive."

"This listserve is only for parents in the neighborhood," said Feeney, who has two children at P.S. 132.

But Grannis, who said he designed the Tapestry Project to inform parents about new charter schools, cited six Headstart centers where he had held information sessions, and insisted he was holding them because he wanted to inform everyone in the community.

"I'm very interested in integration in education," said Grannis, who claimed he has already garnered 250 signatures in favor of Citizens schools in Williamsburg.

He said he is not being paid in any way by Citizens, and that his organization works with a variety of different charter institutions. As for his posts on Brooklyn Baby Hui, he said he stopped them at the request of the listserve administrator.

"The whole point of my organization is to have diverse charter schools," he said.

But local parents, who also circulated their letter to the State Charter Authority and elected officials, said they were sick of educational decisions being dictated to their community.

"Charters were originally designed to respond flexibly to communities' needs, not to be a national network," Yourke said.

Feeney said, "This is what happens when you have people come into the neighborhood and tell you what you need."

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