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Controversial Upper West Side Charter School Clears Hurdle With SUNY Approval

By Leslie Albrecht | October 27, 2010 5:09pm | Updated on October 28, 2010 6:53am
Plans to move a charter school into P.S. 145 cleared a hurdle Wednesday.
Plans to move a charter school into P.S. 145 cleared a hurdle Wednesday.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

By Leslie Albrecht

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER WEST SIDE — A controversial plan to open a charter school on the Upper West Side moved ahead Wednesday with the approval of the State University of New York's Board of Trustees.

The unanimous vote from the board, which governs charter schools, means Harlem Success Academy's plan to expand into District 3 clears a hurdle, but the Department of Education has final say.

Local elected officials, parents and teachers at P.S. 145, a West 105th Street public school that would share space with the charter school, have protested Harlem Success Academy's plan.

They say the new charter school, which would be called Upper West Success Academy, would gobble up resources at P.S. 145 and add students to a district that's already overcrowded. Nearby P.S. 87 had the longest wait list in the city this year.

But Upper West Success Academy's backers say the new school will offer more school options to a neighborhood that desperately needs them.

Noah Gotbaum, president of District 3 Community Education Council, called Wednesday's vote a disappointment, but said he wasn't surprised by it.

Gotbaum said the SUNY board ignored community input on the Harlem Success Academy's expansion plan. He accused schools Chancellor Joel Klein of "doing whatever he can to push charter schools to the detriment of schools that he's theoretically supposed to be supporting and overseeing."

Gotbaum contends that he and other opponents of Upper West Success aren't against charters schools. He says District 3 has had positive experience with other charter schools.

But Gotbaum says P.S. 145 doesn't have enough space for the students the charter school would bring in over the next five years.

"There's a place for charters if you can provide them without destroying the choices for others and the prospects for others," Gotbaum said. "We're merely saying to the DOE, 'show us how you're going to accommodate the exsiting District 3 students and the existing District 3 schools.' The DOE is only looking at next year."

Backers for Upper West Success say there's plenty of room at P.S. 145, because the school is at 59 percent capacity.

Tina Crockett, head of the parent association at P.S. 145, worries sharing space with a charter school could harm P.S. 145's disabled students and potentially mean less time in the computer lab and library for all of P.S. 145's students.

"On paper (a charter school) sounds good, but other things are taken away," Crockett said. "It's very impactful."

Representatives for Upper West Success Academy didn't immediately return calls for comment Wednesday.

The debate over the charter school has grown heated recently. State Sen. Bill Perkins used the n-word during a protest against the new school, and police were called to a public hearing on the proposal after a Harlem Success Academy employee who was videotaping the proceedings refused to leave.

Although the charter school hasn't won final approval, Upper West Success is accepting applications on a website and advertising at bus stops.