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Faculty, Students to Protest Decision to Shutter Bed-Stuy Charter School

 Faculty and parents at the Ethical Community Charter School, which shares a building with P.S. 297 in Bed-Stuy, are calling for Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina to reconsider the school's closure.
Faculty and parents at the Ethical Community Charter School, which shares a building with P.S. 297 in Bed-Stuy, are calling for Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina to reconsider the school's closure.
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DNAinfo/Camille Bautista

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Brooklyn teachers and parents plan to fight the Department of Education’s decision to shut down a struggling Bed-Stuy charter school, according to administrators.

Faculty and students of the Ethical Community Charter School (TECCS) will engage in a “peaceful protest” Wednesday in front of Tweed Courthouse to challenge the city’s announcement to close the facility in June.

During a phone call with Department of Education representatives last week, officials cited poor test scores and high teacher turnover as the reason for non-renewal at the Bed-Stuy school and Flatbush’s Fahari Academy Charter School.

TECCS previously received a two-year renewal from the city in 2013, but did not meet benchmark conditions set by the DOE. Just 12 percent of third through fifth graders met the standards for state English and math tests, which was below both the city and district averages in the 2013-2014 school year, according to city data.

The DOE’s renewal report also noted a concern in “instructional stability,” since more than 50 percent of teachers didn’t return for the school year.

In a letter to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, TECCS principal Annette Keane said the DOE denied administrators the opportunity to share the news of the closure with the school’s 250 students and families. Many parents had to learn of the decision from local news broadcasts, Keane told DNAinfo New York.

Notice from officials was given in a late afternoon phone call Thursday, Keane said, and faculty were “completely blindsided by the media blitz that ensued immediately following the call,” according to the letter.

Families came to the school in tears, with many “shocked and confused,” she said. Some students scheduled to take a practice test underwent counseling because they believed their scores caused the school’s impending closure.  

During dismissal Monday, faculty members collected signatures from community members to rally against the closure. 

“This decision is everything to me,” Keane told DNAinfo New York. “What we’ve done is rebuilt the school’s culture around excellent teaching and learning and I feel like we are only beginning to gain momentum this year. We’re getting cut off before we can even demonstrate our progress.”

In a statement, DOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye said the communication from the city to the schools was “not a surprise” and aligned with the DOE charter monitoring plan and accountability framework.

Keane highlighted teacher development as progress and emphasized a revision in the school’s curriculum over the past two years to line up with Common Core standards. Several instructors were not meeting raised expectations for faculty, which attributed to the significant turnaround in teachers, she said.

The principal urged Farina to visit TECCS in an effort to change her mind.

The Park Avenue school serves children in kindergarten through fifth grade and shares a building with P.S. 297.

Keane said two years of figures is not sufficient enough to label the school a failure and cited a 98 percent satisfaction rating from parents in a recent NYC Schools Survey.

Ephraim Benton, whose 11-year-old is expected to graduate from TECCS this spring, credited the school for developing his daughter’s passion for reading. School instruction even inspired her to co-found a family publishing company, he said.

“It’s always been a family-friendly atmosphere and a close-knit school,” Benton said. “That school is more than just test scores, they have kids practicing activism and learning volunteer work. I hope it can be saved. The chancellor needs to sit and observe to really see what’s going on.”

Another parent, Kizzy Ann Levers, applauded the school for helping raise her three daughters’ reading levels, social skills and overall grades.

The DOE will partner with TECCS to help enroll elementary students in zone schools and assist middle schoolers in applying within their district.

“I've been clear that closing schools is a last resort. However, if a school is not demonstrating progress, then all options are on the table,” Fariña said in a statement.

“I will not let failure continue."