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Parents Protest Success Academy Moving Into Former Catholic Schools

By Nigel Chiwaya | May 6, 2014 5:34pm
 Councilman Mark Treyger (center) joined parents from across the city to protest a law they say forces the city to find space for charter schools.
Councilman Mark Treyger (center) joined parents from across the city to protest a law they say forces the city to find space for charter schools.
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DNAinfo/Nigel Chiwaya

CITY HALL — Days after the city made a surprise announcement that new Success Academy charter schools would move into former Catholic school buildings in Washington Heights, Harlem and Rosedale, parents and education advocates took to the steps of the Department of Education Tuesday morning to protest the law that made it happen.

Carrying signs that read: "4 Sale: Schools. Inquire with Cuomo" and chanting "Who's got our back?" in reference to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's staunch defense of charter schools, parents from across the city blasted the governor and State Senate for enacting a law they said forced the city to find space for charters at the expense of public school students.

Miriam Aristy-Farer, whose 9-year-old son attends the co-located Muscota New School in Inwood, said she thought it was unfair Success Academy would be allowed to move rent-free into Mother Cabrini School while the district suffered with 12 co-located schools.

"The capital plan has asked every year for more buildings for other schools," said Aristy-Farer, who is president of the District 6 Community Education Council. "District 6 is not getting what parents want."

The rally comes 10 days after the city announced it found space for three Success Academy branches rejected by the de Blasio administration in February. The charters will be placed in three former Catholic schools: Mother Cabrini, Annunciation School in Harlem and St. Pius X School in Rosedale, Queens.

The initial rejections led to lawsuits from Success Academy, along with a political battle between Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio that ended with the new charter law, which was part of the state budget that funded universal pre-K in the city.

Councilman Mark Treyger of Coney Island said the same people who fought for the charters stood on the sidelines while the Bloomberg administration closed countless schools, saying the schools were failing.

"Where was the outrage?" Treyger asked.

The news came over the weekend, shocking parents who said they never had the chance to have a say in usage of the space. 

"We found out in the news," said Aristy-Farer, who added that she feared that the new Success Academy would not serve the district's English language learner or special needs students.

Success Academy spokeswoman Kerri Lyon refuted that, saying the school would make room for students in the district.

"Our new school in District 6 will absolutely serve children in the district and we have an excellent track record of educating students with disabilities and [English language learners]," Lyon said. "We look forward to providing another high quality option in the neighborhood."  

IS 59 PTA president Tandrea Lang of Springfield Gardens said the government has been too favorable to charters at the expense of local students.

"These co-locations have an effect on our kids," Lang said. "When they hear their school is being closed, they then wonder, 'What's going to happen to me? Where am I going to go?'"

Representatives from the governor's office did not respond to requests for comment.