New Williamsburg Charter School Met With Mixed Feelings

By Meredith Hoffman on September 6, 2012 4:51pm 

WILLIAMSBURG — After months of protesting the controversial Success Academy's slated co-location, staff at J.H.S. 50 kicked off the school year Thursday with mixed feelings about sharing the space.

"I have to have the wisdom to know what I can and can't change," J.H.S. 50's principal Denise Jamison said, adding that the city "made it clear it's not our building, we're just tenants."

Jamison, school staff, and hundreds of South Williamsburg residents last year argued that Success Academy Williamsburg — the latest of Eva Moskowitz's burgeoning charter network — had done inadequate community outreach, despite Success staff saying that they distributed fliers and held several information sessions in the area.

J.H.S. 50 staff also said that elementary students should not share a building with the high-needs middle school on South 3rd Street.

According to Jamison, Success Academy's staff had been friendly and warm and the kids, who started school last week, had been "quiet and orderly." But she noted that now that both schools are sharing the space, "the real test begins."

The principal of Success Academy, Abby Johnson, also said that "things have been going smoothly," adding that the two schools "want staff to get to know each other and form relationships so they won't feel like strangers."

"They've been warm, welcoming, and happy to meet with us," Johnson said.

But not all of the J.H.S. 50 staff were happy about sharing the space.

"It's a let down," said Denise Mendoza, an assistant teacher who vocally protested the co-location last year. "There's enough space in the school, except you see they got everything they wanted and we have to fight and to beg for resources."

Other staff lamented the stark contrast between the renovated Success Academy space, and their own segment of the building.

"It's an irony seeing that space and our public school," said one social studies teacher who declined to give her name. "Everything's new there, even the doors. 

"I feel uncomfortable."

But parents of students in both schools were more focused on their kids' first week of classes than on the colocation.

"I feel positive about my son coming here," said Jerry Marcus of his 11-year-old's first day at J.H.S. 50, "and I feel positive about the charter."

Marcus, a Bushwick resident who said he chose to enroll his son in the Williamsburg public school because he liked the way "the area is changing with condos and different cultures moving in," said he saw no problem with a charter sharing the building.

"I just want him to go to a good school and make sure he gets home safe," Marcus said. 

And Williamsburg resident Sarah Burke, whose son is in kindergarten at Success Academy, said debate about the school galvanized her feelings.

"I did research and it made me even more adamant about it," she said. "It's been a great week."

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