Parents Sue State for Approving Citizens of the World Charter School
WILLIAMSBURG — A local parent group is suing the state for approving a controversial charter school's entrance in the neighborhood this fall without sufficient "support from the impacted community."
Citizens of the World, a charter elementary slated to co-locate with two other schools across McCarren Park on Leonard Street, garnered support from only a "select, cultivated group of parents" and held "hidden meetings," according to the lawsuit filed in the Kings County State Supreme Court last month.
The members of WAGPOPS (Williamsburg and Greenpoint Parents for Our Public Schools), the parent group who filed the suit, claim that the state illegally ignored significant community opposition to the new charter.
"We do not believe they abided by the law by accepting this school," said WAGPOPS member Brooke Parker. "It was done sneakily and they ignored the impact on our community, and they should be held accountable for this."
Citizens of the World, a Los Angeles-based network promoted by Eric Grannis — the husband of Success Academy's director Eva Moskowitz — has received fierce criticism from WAGPOPS, Williamsburg Community Board One, local teachers and politicians over the past year.
The charter's opponents claim that neighborhood does not need another elementary school and that co-location with JHS 156 and Northside Charter School would deprive the other institutions of resources and space.
"All of our elementary schools are already underenrolled," Parker said of District 14 schools, and said Citizens was appealing to parents from outside the community.
The SUNY State Charter Authority "must consider the demand for charter schools in the community" when deciding whether to approve new institutions, according to Education Law 2852 cited in the lawsuit.
"SUNY didn't give our complaint attention," Parker said of a letter WAGPOPS wrote to the state authority opposing the school. "They were supposed to get widespread community input but they went to maybe 1 or 2 daycares and had 10-minute information sessions."
A representative from SUNY declined to comment since the lawsuit was pending, and a representative from Citizens did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
But in the past Grannis has defended his educational organization's efforts to inform local families about Citizens.
Last February Grannis, who said he designed his organization 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.
And at a heated hearing in December at the elementary's slated home, Citizens' public relations director Tara Phillips said that the school would serve a diverse population and provide an important "choice" for parents in the neighborhood.
"We were invited here by a group of District 14 parents... we're a non-profit, not a hedge fund," she said. "I'm a native of Brooklyn... We're here to partner with the community."