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DOE to Host Public Hearing on Success Academy's LES Location

By Lisha Arino | December 10, 2014 1:40pm
 Teacher Shawn Abernathy (L) supervises students in the hallway as they head upstairs at Harlem Success Academy.
Teacher Shawn Abernathy (L) supervises students in the hallway as they head upstairs at Harlem Success Academy.
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Getty Images/Chris Hondros

LOWER EAST SIDE — Parents in the Lower East Side and East Village will soon be able to sound off on a new charter school slated to open next fall.

The Department of Education scheduled a Jan. 8 public hearing on Success Academy’s plans to open a new elementary school, after parents, elected officials and advocates criticized the charter school chain for moving forward without community input. 

The hearing will take place at the P.S. 20 Anna Silver auditorium, located at 166 Essex St., at 6 p.m.

Community members have called for a public hearing since October, when Success Academy expressed an interest in opening in the East Village or Lower East Side, even though it had applied for a charter in another area.

The charter school network had originally applied and was approved to operate a school in District 2, which covers Lower Manhattan, much of the west side and the Upper East Side, but told the state it wanted to move to District 1 instead, according to SUNY spokesman David Doyle.

Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowtiz revealed plans to open a District 1 elementary school in August through an Oct. 20 letter to Councilwomen Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez.

It is not yet clear where in the neighborhood the new school will be located. The charter school network did not immediately return a request for comment.

Records show that Success Academy applied for a revision to its charter, which would allow it to operate in District 1. The state has not yet approved the request, Doyle said.

Public input is part of the charter application process, but because Success Academy had originally planned to open in District 2, only parents in that area were given the opportunity to comment.

The relocation would also be considered a “non-material charter revision” and would not require Success Academy to resubmit an application so another hearing in District 1 was not required.

Local leaders criticized the move and asked the DOE to hold a public hearing, saying that it was “extremely problematic” to let charter school operators relocate without letting the community give input, according to a Nov. 13 letter to Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

“We asked for this hearing because it’s so deeply important to allow Lower East Side residents to make their voices heard on this issue,” Chin said in a statement Tuesday. “A charter school operator must never be able to bypass community input.”

SUNY Charter Schools Institute Executive Director Susan Miller Barker also sent Farina a separate request for a public meeting on Nov. 12.

Meanwhile, Success Academy opponents in District 1 have started an online petition against the proposed new school. The petition, which was started on Oct. 29, has more than 1,900 signatures so far.

The public hearing will take place at PS 20 Anna Silver auditorium, located at 166 Essex St., on Jan. 8 from 6 to 8 p.m. Sign up for public comment begins at 5:30 p.m.