Bensonhurst residents reject state plans to move Success Academy Charter into I.S. 96 building

Chants of “No co-location at Seth Low” and “How do you spell success? S-E-T-H L-O-W!” could be heard from blocks away as parents, teachers, students and concerned residents rallied before a public hearing regarding the proposed co-location of Success Academy at I.S. 96 Seth Low Junior High School on Monday, September 30.

Success Academy Charter School has submitted an application to the State University of New York to co-locate an elementary school at I.S. 96. The public hearing process is being facilitated by the Department of Education.

Unlike Coney Island Prep, which the DOE has proposed expanding into I.S. 281, Joseph Cavallaro, this Success Academy application is being handled by SUNY, not the DOE. Only SUNY has the authority to approve or deny the application. If approved, Success will co-locate beginning in September, 2014.

This public hearing was held just six days after a “sham” hearing regarding the application itself was held at I.S. 228, David A. Boody. Only a handful of people came to that hearing, in which notice was given out just a couple of days before, after hours and during a religious holiday.

The greater District 21 community came out in droves this week to protest the co-location, including several students who testified.

Eighth grader Danielle Perkins said, “This school, even though it’s big, has halls and staircases that are crowded. Kids get injured. Imagine having younger kids [elementary school] trying to get to class and then they get injured,” she said.

“I am concerned about the upcoming sixth, seventh and eighth graders,” said seventh grader Fiona Kocllari. “We will have to share everything with the incoming school. Lots more conflicts will happen if this school comes in.”

Principal Denise Lewinsky said that she was “adamantly opposed” to the co-location.

“One central reason I am opposed is because the Seth Low community worked diligently to restructure to provide smaller learning [academies],” she explained. “If the school co-locates, the integrity of that structure will be compromised.”

When the hearing facilitator asked if there were any representatives from Success Academy, any other charter school or SUNY, one person raised her hand. She was a Success Academy student, who confirmed that she was there to “take notes and report back.”

However, Kerri Lyon, a spokesperson for Success, said that there were “several Success representatives” present at the hearing, but could not say why they did not identify themselves.

“Local parents are demanding more high quality options to educate their children and Success Academy, which runs some of the city’s highest performing public schools, looks forward to the opportunity to try to meet some of this demand,” Lyons said.

According to the DOE, since 2008, enrollment at Seth Low has fallen 32 percent and as a result, the building is only at 55 percent capacity.

“We have made sure to consider the upcoming potential enrollment needs across Seth Low’s zone and have allocated additional space to Seth Low, beyond its current usage, in case demand increases in the future,” said Harry Hartfield, a DOE spokesperson. “Brooklyn parents are clamoring for more school choices, and we need to utilize all available space to provide those choices.”

But Laurie Windsor, president of the community education council in District 20 next door, contended that this is not the case.

“Seth Low is a feeder school for District 20. We have a vested interest in Seth Low. District 20 needs seats, junior high school seats especially [because we are] still overcrowded,” she explained. “This is the first year with no rezoning to relieve overcrowding. We are asking for new junior high school seats. We don’t need another elementary. My question to DOE is: where are the seats?”

Others in the community testified about possible traffic issues, since Seth Low is just a few blocks away from the recently expanded P.S. 682 Lucretia Marcigliano campus.

“The public is concerned about safety, traffic and more pedestrians by both schools,” said Marnee Elias-Pavia, district manager of Community Board 11, adding that according to a study by the Department of Transportation, 92 percent of cars speed within a quarter mile of the school. “We passed a resolution against this co-location at our last meeting.”

The Panel for Educational Policy will hold a public hearing on this proposed co-location on Tuesday, October 15 at 6 p.m. at 883 Classon Avenue.

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