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Parents, Teachers Oppose Success Academy Expansion Plan

By Mary Johnson | May 2, 2012 9:05am

MIDTOWN — A vociferous, standing-room-only crowd of parents and teachers voiced their resounding opposition Tuesday to an application by the Success Academy charter school chain to open two new, 675-student locations inside existing District 2 schools.

No specific sites were announced at the meeting, and Department of Education officials said another hearing would be held once those locations are finalized.

But even the possibility of bringing two new charter schools into public school facilities prompted parents and teachers to rail against the concept — at times accusing the Success Academy network of being a “vampire,” a “public enemy” and a “parasite” for taking valuable space and resources from existing public institutions in New York City.

“Find your own digs,” said Juanita Faulkner, the mother of a 15-year-old aspiring ballerina at the Talent Unlimited school, located within the Julia Richman Education Complex on East 67th Street near Second Avenue.

“Find your own building, and put your charter school there,” Faulkner added. “Stop being parasites.”

Success Academy, founded by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, already operates several charter schools around New York City. The network of institutions prides itself on rigorous academics that yield high test scores.

But Success Academy has sparked controversy across the city, as parents argue that charter schools consume funds and space that the city’s public school system desperately needs.

“Certain co-locations work, and certain co-locations don’t,” said Simon Miller, first vice president of the District 2 Community Education Council and a P.S. 158 parent.

“We need more space,” Miller added. “Doing this takes the resources away from us.”

The heated public hearing on Tuesday dragged on for more than two hours. Although several Success Academy parents spoke out in defense of the school, the overwhelming majority of those who attended the meeting decried the plan to move charter schools into existing, largely overcrowded schools in District 2, which stretches from the Upper East Side to TriBeCa.

Parents from P.S. 158 on the Upper East Side admitted to having open space in their building, but said they’ve been pushing to convert the empty hallways and classrooms into what they said is a badly needed middle school.

Representatives from several of the six schools housed within the Julia Richman Education Complex on East 67th Street near Second Avenue argued that tossing another institution into an already well-oiled machine will cause irreparable harm.

Joshua Satin, an assistant principal at the Ella Baker School inside the Julia Richman Education Complex called it “an ecosystem that works.”

“It’s a great place, and it should not be touched,” Satin said.

Several parents with children at P.S. 11 in Chelsea said hearing that their school was on the list of underutilized public school buildings in the city came as a shock.

P.S. 11 recently shed the Clinton School for Writers and Artists, one father explained, and was finally able to regain its library. It is currently below 100 percent capacity, but he said that extra space is dwindling quickly.

The Community Education Council for District 2 recently passed a resolution opposing the proposed co-location for two new Success Academy schools, as well as any new charter school that does not secure its own building.

And both Senator Tom Duane and City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez sent letters urging the DOE to turn down the Success Academy proposal.

Noah Gotbaum, a member of the Community Education Council for District 3, said his district is already home to several Success Academy charter schools, and he came to the meeting on Tuesday to encourage District 2 to keep the charters out.

“Stand up. Fight. Don’t let this happen,” Gotbaum said.

“We don’t have the money that they have,” he added. “[But] we have numbers, and we have to stand up.”