If it’s not broken, and it actually works pretty well, let’s throw a charter school in there and hope it doesn’t break.
That seems to be the philosophy the Department of Education is going with in its proposal to co-locate the newly proposed K-5 Success Academy Charter School Brooklyn 5 at K265 in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
The building currently houses middle and high school students from Dr. Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of the Arts and special-needs students from P.S. 369.
McKinney musicians, dancers, marching band members, demonstrators, speakers and MC’s joined parents, teachers and community members for a rally in front of the school yesterday evening to express their outrage over the proposed co-location.
“Susan McKinney is not a failing school, and to knock a great school down at a time the DOE is focusing on increasing student achievement [is] not very logical,” Shaniqua Moore, mother of a freshman student at McKinney, told the crowd at the rally. “This process is the equivalent to bullying and the results of bullying are broken spirits. How do I put together a broken spirit after this decision is made? Merely look at my kid and say [that’s] life?
The proposal came as a shock to members of the school’s community considering the school has received solid grades on its annual progress reports and is excelling at incorporating the arts into its program.
Parents are particularly baffled by the proposal because the new charter school would occupy the very floor of the building where McKinney’s arts facilities are located.
“This band, the arts programs in this school need space, and this is not a failing school. This is a very successful school. So, to squeeze these children out, [would be] to take away the third floor where they practice, to take away the third floor where the dance group [gathers], to take away the third floor where the arts program is . It [would] basically cut out the heart of this school,” Councilmember Letitia James told her constituents from the podium.
The DOE didn’t inform the principals of the schools about the proposal until 12 hours before it was released to the public. The school’s parents, teachers, students and administrators had no say in the process. Mayoral control of the DOE, and his hand-picked Panel on Educational Policy, pretty much assures that.
“It’s so disrespectful for them to march themselves in here without us agreeing with the idea. What sense is it for this to be a performing arts school with no performing arts? Are they listening to their ideas?” Dezeray Lynch, a sixth grader at McKinney, said to the crowd. “Overall, I’m just trying to say, this school means a lot to us and coming here is liking taking the best things we’ve got from us.”
The city said the building is being underutilized. However, it inaccurately reported McKinney’s enrollment to be 440 when it’s actually 510, according to the office of Councilmember James. The analysis also indicates the several rooms reserved for mandated city services were not taken into consideration in the DOE’s Educational Impact Study.
“The DOE has failed to use accurate data in analyzing the utilization and capacity of this school, some rooms, not included in their data for mandated service for special-ED children, were not counted. The school building will be operating at 102% capacity with this charter school,” James said. “Special-needs District 75 asked for more quality middle and high school seats but were denied, but yet a charter school is coming.”
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A kindergarten and first grade class of 164-210 students would begin at Success Charter School in September, and a new grade of students would enter the school each year until the school reaches its full capacity during the 2017-2018 school year. Parents are concerned that the new school will strip resources away from their children.
“The expansion of charter schools has led to great inequities in this system, and a higher concentration of need in our public schools. At the same time they’ve taken up increased amounts of critical space from districts that need it the most,” James said. “So, we’re going to have to share the library the gymnasium, the cafeteria, labs and again, the third floor, which is dedicated to the arts, will be no more.”
They’re also concerned about the gap in age between the children.
“Presently everybody in here is from sixth grade to twelfth grade. That’s an issue,” Celia Green, mother of a 12-year-old student, told the Voice. “It’s a safety issue one, and even without it being [a matter of] safety, it’s real misuse of a building.”
The Success Academy schools are run by well-known Education-reformer Eva Moskowitz, and to her credit, her four schools currently in operation perform well year in and year out on annual progress reports. In fact, the Voice has reported on one of her schools, where the elementary-aged students were eerily quiet and disciplined for little kids , but well-behaved none-the-less.
A public hearing for the co-location will take place on Oct. 31 at Susan McKinney before the PEP makes its final rulings on proposed co-locations in the city on Nov. 8. Celia Green hopes the school’s protest efforts will be enough to convince the PEP to reject the proposal.
“If you look at the data there are very few middle schools, and there are even fewer good middle schools. So it’s like mining for gold or diamonds,” Green said. “It’s very rare that you get a gem. This is one of those gems.”
Check out more photos from the protest below:
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 12, 2012