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Lower East Side Success Academy Delayed for 2 Years, Officials Say

By Lisha Arino | January 8, 2015 12:26pm
 Teacher Shawn Abernathy, right, teaches math concepts using a modern computer projection board at Harlem Success Academy, a free, public elementary charter school March 30, 2009.
Teacher Shawn Abernathy, right, teaches math concepts using a modern computer projection board at Harlem Success Academy, a free, public elementary charter school March 30, 2009.
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Getty Images/Chris Hondros

LOWER EAST SIDE — Success Academy does not plan on opening a new charter school in the Lower East Side or the East Village for at least another two years, officials said.

The charter school network — which had announced plans in October to launch an elementary school in the area — deferred its request for space from the Department of Education, according to the charter network's spokeswoman. She did not elaborate on the reasons for Success Academy's decision.

The original decision to open a Success Academy drew outrage from parents, politicians and advocates.

Success Academy’s abrupt turnaround prompted the DOE to cancel a Thursday evening public hearing the night before it was scheduled to take place, according to an email the DOE sent to local officials.

“In light of the fact that the DOE is not planning to site a school in District 1, tomorrow’s hearing has been canceled,” it read.

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

The DOE scheduled the Jan. 8 hearing after elected officials, education advocates and parents learned that Success Academy planned to open a school without public input in District 1, which covers the East Village and the Lower East Side.

Success Academy had originally planned to open a school in neighboring District 2, which runs from the Financial District to the Upper East Side, and received a charter from SUNY Charter Schools Institute to open in that area, according to a SUNY spokesman.

However, the charter school chain decided to open in District 1 and filed an application to change the school's location, records show. Success has not withdrawn that the application, records show, and it has not been approved by the state, according to SUNY spokeswoman.

While the original charter application required a public hearing, the revision did not, according to state law. But the city announced a public hearing for the proposed school last month after Lower East Side and East Village officials and the state reached out to DOE.

The sudden cancellation drew criticism from local leaders.

“It is very frustrating that the Department of Education...would cancel a meeting with less than 24 hours’ notice to the community and elected officials,” said Councilwoman Rosie Mendez in a statement.

“The parents of School District 1 deserve an opportunity to be heard and DOE has taken that opportunity away from them.”

Lisa Donlan, president of the Community Education Council for District 1, said she was on the phone with the DOE to discuss the meeting’s logistics just 10 minutes before she received word it had been canceled.

“I was shocked. I was absolutely shocked,” Donlan said, explaining that the DOE employee she spoke with gave no indication that the meeting would be canceled. She called back immediately, Donlan said, but was unable to get more information on why the meeting was canceled.

Councilwoman Margaret Chin's office did not comment on the cancellation but a spokesman said SUNY Charter Schools Committee Chairman Joseph Belluck agreed not to approve the school's move to the Lower East Side until a public hearing had been held. A SUNY spokeswoman could not immediately confirm the agreement.

Donlan and Mendez said they plan to hold a 5 p.m. press conference on Thursday at P.S. 20 Anna Silver School at 166 Essex St., where the meeting was scheduled to take place. Following the press conference, they will hold a forum to allow parents and residents to comment on the situation, they said.