Principals Given Just 24 Hours to Make Way for New Success Academy Schools

By James Fanelli on July 8, 2014 6:42am 

 Eva Moskowitz (above) is opening 10 new Success Academy schools in the fall. The DOE hired hundreds of workers to move the new schools into city space between June 27 and June 29, sources said.
Eva Moskowitz (above) is opening 10 new Success Academy schools in the fall. The DOE hired hundreds of workers to move the new schools into city space between June 27 and June 29, sources said.
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Dario Cantatore/Getty Images

NEW YORK CITY — The Department of Education paid hundreds of contract workers to clear floors in a rush job at city schools to make way for Eva Moskowitz's Success Academy network, sources said.

The clear-outs took place the weekend of June 28 because the charter-school chain wanted to move into the rent-free co-location spaces on July 1.

Principals at those city schools had until the end of the business day on June 27 to vacate the classrooms and floors the new Success Academy schools would occupy, sources said. Since the last day of the school year was June 26, the principals had only 24 hours to clear desks, chairs, student cubbies and computers from the rooms.

A few days before the moves, John Shea, the chief executive of the DOE's schools facilities division, told personnel that he wanted the classrooms and floors at the schools completely cleaned out because he had hired hundreds of workers to haul away the equipment and furniture and didn't want any slowdowns, sources said.

DOE spokesman Harry Hartfield said on Tuesday that the quick moves were necessary so Success Academy schools were ready to open by the fall.

“In a city as complex as New York, there are varying construction needs and some schools — district and charter — were moved in on June 30, instead of June 27. There is a short window for moving in over the summer, and this is a standard practice for schools with construction needs," Hartfield said. "If any organization, charter or district, makes a similar request, we work with them to ensure a smooth transition while working closely with community stakeholders.”

A DOE source told DNAinfo New York that while all district and charter schools have the option of moving into new co-location spaces on July 1, Success Academy is the only charter network the Education Department actually goes out of its way for to meet the tight deadline.

"She's the only one they do it for," the source said of Moskowitz.

Top DOE brass would have had to approve the job, considering the manpower and money involved in meeting the July 1 turnover of space, according to the source.

"It would have to have the blessing of a deputy chancellor," the source said. "Principals are kings and queens of their domains. Even for Shea to tell them, it would be ignored."

Success Academy spokeswoman Kerri Lyon said the network moves into shared space in DOE buildings on the earliest possible date because of the construction work the company performs on the classrooms before the start of the school year.

"It's our understanding the DOE has a policy that new schools — both district and charters — gain access to their buildings on July 1," she said. "We are always ready to begin work at that time because we open our schools in mid-August."

DNAinfo New York reported that in 2012 and 2013, the DOE spent tens of thousands of dollars in overtime to create co-location space for new Success Academy schools.

Emails obtained by DNAinfo at the time showed the preferential treatment the DOE gave Moskowitz. In a 2012 email, Shea emphasized the importance of meeting the July 1 deadline, noting that he didn't want Moskowitz calling him about any delays.

In a 2013 email, deputy schools chancellor Kathleen Grimm told Moskowitz that she was monitoring the end-of-the-year moves to ensure they went according to plan.

The Success Academy network currently operates 22 schools and is opening 10 more in the fall. Its expansion is largely due to former mayor Michael Bloomberg's support.

Since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office, the charter chain didn't seem to have an ally in City Hall. During his mayoral campaign, de Blasio criticized co-locations and charter networks receiving free space in city schools, singling out Moskowitz's chain.

In February, as mayor, de Blasio nixed plans for three Success Academy schools to share space at city schools. But when Gov. Andrew Cuomo later backed Moskowitz and charter schools, de Blasio reversed course and found room for the three Success Academy schools in former Catholic schools.

Cuomo and the state Legislature also put provisions in the state budget requiring the city to provide charter networks with rent-free space at public schools or pay most of the cost of space at a private location.

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