Williamsburg Charter High School May Get Another Chance to Stay Open

By Meredith Hoffman on April 24, 2012 9:39am 

The board of Williamsburg Charter High School is contesting the DOE's decision to shutter the school.
The board of Williamsburg Charter High School is contesting the DOE's decision to shutter the school.
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WILLIAMSBURG — A charter school slated to close in June may get another chance, a state court ruled last week.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Ellen Spodek issued a temporary restraining order, derailing the Department of Education's plan to close Williamsburg Charter High School until a hearing next month.

The school's board brought the city to court to challenge the decision earlier this month.

Though the final call on the Varet Street school's future is still up in the air, the current ruling allows the charter to begin accepting students for next year.

"This means we can go forward with our lottery," said the institution's lawyer Ellen Eagen.

"The parents are thinking the court is going to overturn the decision," she said of the DOE's ruling to close the school. "Academically we're strong, and we're one of the safest schools in WIlliamsburg."

The high school, part of the Believe School Charter Network, was slated for closure after findings that its leaders were engaged in corrupt management. The former CEO Eddie Calderon-Melendez allegedly used school funds for his personal use and he was recently indicted for failing to file tax returns. Board members also failed to disclose their connections to the school, when at least half of the members were staff of the charter group, the DOE said.

But the school's board maintains the school did not collude with these leaders and that Calderon-Melendez and others have been dismissed.

"His indictment did not raise any concerns about Williamsburg Charter High School, it was all personal to Eddie," said Eagen.

"Put us on probation status and we'll rise to the occasion," she challenged the DOE. "Why close a school with such a potential?"

The Department of Education did not respond immediately to requests for comment, but in the past Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg has said the DOE has given the school plenty of chances already.

"Time and again, this school has failed to live up to the conditions we set when concerns arose over their management and finances," Sternberg said in his announcement to close the school.

A spokeswoman for the city's law department said the agency stands by its revocation of the charter.

"We believe the DOE correctly revoked the charter and await the Court's final decision," the spokeswoman, Elizabeth Thomas, wrote in an email.

Arguments in the case are scheduled for May 7.

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