BROOKLYN — Parents and teachers are fighting controversial charter school network Success Academy's application to open schools in Williamsburg, Park Slope and Fort Greene — with dozens filing complaints during the public hearing process this week.
Success Academy has applied to open 14 schools in New York over the next two years, including one each in districts 13, 14 and 15, encompassing parts of Williamsburg, Bed-Stuy, Park Slope, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill and Clinton Hill.
The schools would open in August 2016 with kindergarden and first grade classes at locations that have yet to be determined. The schools have said they plan to add one grade level per year.
While the current application only covers up to sixth grade, Success would like schools for all three districts to eventually expand to cover up to 12th grade. Pre-K, middle school and high school grades are subject to further approval.
SUNY Charter Schools Institute, which is tasked with evaluating charter school applications, will be voting on the Success Academy charters on Oct. 8, a spokesman said.
Though less than 20 people attended a Department of Education hearing on Monday inviting public comment about the planned charter, locals had 48 hours after the hearing to submit comments for public record.
So far, more than 100 people — most of them opposed to additional charter expansion — have submitted written comments to the DOE and SUNY through public school democracy parent group NYCPublic, according the group's organizer.
NYCPublic automatically sent the comments to the DOE, press, elected officials and the SUNY Charter Approval Board, they said.
Opponents decried the addition of new Success charter schools, citing problems including their unwillingness to teach students with special needs, including English as Second Language learners or children with behavioral issues.
As a result, public schools near charter schools end up being "dumping grounds" for high-needs students, some critics said.
Some opponents blasted charters for taking up space and resources inside of public school buildings, while others said they liked charters but didn't trust Eva Moskowitz or Success Academy.
"I am disgusted at the State Education leadership for creating this problem instead of solving the issues that affect our schools," one advocate wrote. "We have good elementary schools in District 14, we need support, not co-location!"
Tesa Wilson, president of district 14's community education council, attended Monday's hearing to speak out against additional charter schools in the district.
But the hearings often feel like "smoke and mirrors," with SUNY ultimately approving many charters that locals oppose, she said.
"It gives you a sense that the process is rigged," Wilson said.
SUNY declined to comment.
And while Success Academy sent a representative to the hearing to take notes, it did not give a presentation on the proposed schools or offer to answer questions — a lack of engagement that's become regular at public hearings, Wilson and others said.
Success Academy spokeswoman Ann Powell, who was not present at Monday's meeting, said that the academy has made "extensive outreach efforts," including information sessions, tours and presentations at daycares and pre-schools.
The network subsequently received “substantial” petition signatures supporting the new schools, she said, noting that 4,770 parents in those districts supported a new Success Academy in their area.
Its application includes 1,550 signatures from parents in district 13; 1,600 from parents in district 14 and 1,600 signatures from parents in district 15 in favor of the schools.
"It's important that parents have the opportunity to express their opinions, but the facts don't support the criticisms you cite," she said of the parent concerns expressed at Monday's meeting and in online forums.
A DOE representative at the hearing said the session had been recorded for SUNY and the DOE to review. The Success Academy representative at the hearing said the charter school network would be taking comments into consideration.