CHELSEA — Dozens of parents spoke out Monday night about proposals for new Success Academy charter schools in Manhattan — with opponents of the schools criticizing Success Academy officials for not revealing their planned locations for the charters.
The hearing, held by the Department of Education, was a chance for the public to weigh in on Success Academy's two applications currently before the SUNY's Charter Schools Institute, the state body that authorizes charters.
One new Success Academy charter school is proposed for District 3, which includes the Upper West Side, Morningside Heights and part of Harlem, and another for District 2, which spans from the tip of Manhattan to West 59th Street on the West Side, and up to East 96th Street on the East Side.
To the dismay of detractors, Success Academy did not offer a public presentation on its plans at the hearing, and has not shared the specific locations it has in mind for the new elementary schools.
Elected officials and others opposed to Success Academy's expansion in these districts decried the fact that the charter network did not need to disclose where it will locate the new school during the public comment period, making it hard for parents to give feedback.
"They don’t even give you a location, they just say somewhere in District 3," complained Upper West Side mom Beth Servetar.
Parents supporting the charter network, mainly those with students at the Upper West Success Academy, as well as local parents opposed to the charter schools, urged all those present to remember to be respectful, since there are shared goals among parents on both sides of the issue.
Nevertheless, speakers' comments got heated throughout the hearing.
"We all want the best for our children, but really [co-location] is undermining the education of the kids who are already in the schools you are taking," Servetar said of the siting process, in which charters are situated within an existing public school.
Parents of students from the UWS Success Academy pleaded the case for choice, especially when their children didn't get into top District 3 choices like P.S. 87 and P.S. 199.
"As a parent, would you send your child to a school with a grade of a 'B' or 'C' or 'D'? Can you truthfully say the system wasn’t broken before the charters arrived?" said charter school dad Peter Brooks.
Others blamed the act of putting charter schools inside public school buildings — also known as co-location — for provoking fighting among parents.
"The system has pit public school parents against charter school parents. I don’t fault any charter school parents for voraciously protecting the interests of their child," said traditional public school parent David Rosenberg.
But, he warned that he would not back down in the fight against co-locations.
"When a charter school economically threatens my child or my child’s potential for resources or classroom... [p]lease excuse me if going forward this gets ugly," he said.
Critics of Success Academy at the hearing also accused the charter network of rejecting English Language Learners and students with special needs in order to boost its test scores.
Courtney Harry, the president of Success Academy Upper West's parents council, defended the school and said there are plenty of students with special needs at the school led by compassionate teachers.
She touted the school's achievements in math and said she was surrounded by parents passionate about the academics at the school.
"This is not a forum where we usually are present and it’s important for us to be here," she said.
Both Community Education Council 3 and Community Education Council 2 have called for a moratorium on new charter schools in their districts until statistics regarding how they operate, including who they accept, are publicly released.
The city's Department of Education recently approved co-locations for two Success Academy charters, in the South Bronx and Bedford-Stuyvesant, after new state rules were unveiled saying the city must find rooms for charters in public buildings or be forced to pay their rent.
In a statement, Success Academy Senior Managing Director of Public Affairs Ann Powell, emphasized that the charters are in high demand and the applications are a result of listening to parents.
"Families across New York City are demanding more high-quality public schools in their neighborhoods. They shouldn't have to wait," she said.
The SUNY Board of Trustees’ Charter Schools Committee will vote on the proposal on Oct. 8.