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Parents, Teachers Turn Out to Oppose Success Academy Charter School

By Mary Johnson | December 11, 2012 7:43am

GRAMERCY — A fervent grassroots effort to keep a new Success Academy charter school from moving into Gramercy's Washington Irving campus plowed forward Monday night with a public hearing packed with parents and teachers.

Several Success Academy parents turned out to praise the charter’s merits and urged Washington Irving to give the charter a chance.

But the overwhelming majority of those who spoke at the meeting berated the Department of Education for considering a proposal that they said would suck resources from already struggling schools and inappropriately cram elementary-age students and high schoolers into the same building.

“We are outraged that you would think about co-locating young children with a high school,” said Layla Law-Gisiko, chair of the Community Board 5 education committee, of the plan to introduce the charter elementary school.

“We need our capacity,” she added. “We cannot afford to give it to charter schools who can afford to get their own building.”

Success Academy, a controversial chain of charter schools launched by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, is looking to open six schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn in 2013.

For one of those new locations, the charter consulted with the DOE to find underutilized public school space and, from the list of available options, settled on the Washington Irving campus which is already home to six high schools.

The city’s Panel for Educational Policy voted last year to close one of those, Washington Irving High School, which will now be phased out over the next few years.

Under the proposal that will come before the PEP for a vote on Dec. 20, Success Academy would occupy the space being vacated by Washington Irving.

But those who spoke at the meeting argued that whatever space is available within the school campus should go toward the public schools already housed inside, which are struggling with limited resources.  

“How dare you put a seventh school in this already crowded building,” said Thomas Hasler, a teacher at the International High School at Union Square, located inside the Washington Irving campus. “We oppose. We oppose. We oppose.

“It’s a shame, and it’s wrong,” added Hasler, who led a rally at the school back in October to protest the incoming charter.

But several parents whose children attend Success Academy on the Upper West Side — which occupies space inside the Brandeis High School campus — defended the notion that the charter and the high schools could coexist.

“I hear what you’re saying about coexisting, and then I see what’s happening up north,” said the parent of one special needs child who is excelling at the Success Academy on the Upper West Side. “Please give co-existence a chance.”

Another father whose son attends the Upper West Side Success Academy said the school has been “phenomenal” for his child, for whom English is not his first language.

“[Parents] need choice. They demand choice,” he said. “It’s a compelling story that I think has been a success for everyone within Brandeis.”

The city’s Panel for Educational Policy is scheduled to vote on the proposed colocation on Dec. 20 at 6 p.m. at the High School of Fashion Industries, located at 225 W. 24th St.