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Success Academy LES Relocation Needs a Public Hearing, Officials Say

By Lisha Arino | November 14, 2014 3:12pm | Updated on November 17, 2014 8:53am
 Students (L to R, front row) Lamine Cisse, Marjery Pacheco, and Mia McNair sit quietly and wait for their teacher at Harlem Success Academy.
Students (L to R, front row) Lamine Cisse, Marjery Pacheco, and Mia McNair sit quietly and wait for their teacher at Harlem Success Academy.
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Chris Hondros/Getty Images

LOWER EAST SIDE — State and local officials have asked the Department of Education to hold a public hearing on plans to bring a new school run by the Success Academy charter school chain to the neighborhood.

“We strongly urge you to hold a new public hearing on Success Academy’s application to open a new charter school in School District 1, so that the residents of that district have an opportunity to provide their input on the revised application,” said local leaders in a Nov. 13 letter to Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

SUNY Charter Schools Institute Susan Miller Barker sent Farina a separate request on Nov. 12.

Last month, Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz revealed plans to site a new elementary school in the Lower East Side or the East Village, which make up District 1.

The charter school chain had recently been approved to open a new school in District 2 — which covers Lower Manhattan, much of the west side and the Upper East Side — but told the state it planned to move the school to District 1, according to a SUNY spokesman.

Success Academy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Public hearings are part of the charter application process, but because Success Academy had originally planned to open in District 2, only parents in that district were given the opportunity to give their input.

The relocation was considered a “non-material charter revision” and did not require Success Academy to resubmit an application, so another public hearing in District 1 was not required, Barker Miller said in her letter to Fariña.

“We understand that this request goes beyond the general obligations of the [New York Charter Schools Act of 1998], but feel the public concern of this particular change in location merits our request,” she wrote.

Local leaders said it was “extremely problematic” to let charter school operators relocate without holding a hearing for the new district because each community, even within a borough, is different.

“Simply put, the findings of a public hearing on a charter school application in one district are no longer relevant once that application is changed to a different district,” wrote City Councilmembers Margaret Chin, Rosie Mendez and Ydanis Rodriguez. “The Success Charter application includes statistics that are specific to District 2 and that do not apply to District 1.”

Lisa Donlan, Shino Tanikawa, Miriam Aristy-Farer, the presidents of Community Education Council Districts 1, 2 and 6, also signed the letter.

The DOE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Both SUNY and Success Academy have been criticized for the relocation process, which some have called confusing and inconsistent.

Last month, the SUNY Charter Schools Institute approved Success Academy’s charter for a new elementary school in District 2, even though it had told the Institute it planned to move the school to District 1 or District 6 in upper Manhattan instead.

Although the state insisted that it approved the charter for District 2, a document posted briefly on SUNY’s website seemed to show that the school was slated for either District 1 or 6 instead.

After DNAinfo pointed out the apparent conflict, SUNY took down the document and amended it to say District 2. SUNY spokesman David Doyle said the first posting was an “administrative error.”

Success Academy formally announced its intent to open in District 1 through an Oct. 20 letter to Chin and Mendez.

Meanwhile, Success Academy opponents in District 1 have started a petition against the proposed new school. The online petition, which launched on Oct. 29, has more than 1,000 signatures so far.