PEP gives the green light to I.S. 96 co-location; pols threaten to sue

It’s not over till it’s over.

Members of the Panel for Educational Policy approved an application for the co-location of Success Academy Charter School in I.S. 96 Seth Low Junior High School — along with 22 others — at a panel vote held at Prospect Heights High School on Tuesday, October 15.

However, elected officials promised to sue the city over the decision, which they contend was “rushed through” by Mayor Michael Bloomberg before he finishes his final term.

A raucous crowd of protestors chanted “This is a total sham,” and “Lame duck mayor! Quack, quack, quack!” while members of the panel read the 23 item agenda.

Parents, students and teachers alike said that they were furious with the decision.

“I am a student with special needs. If this school comes in, what will happen with my help?” asked seventh grader Vivian Soto. “We need this help, not just for me. We won’t have enough space or enough teachers. It’s unfair for this to happen, not only to us but the kids who will be here in the future.”

“My concern and worry is for the children who will lose all these classes and electives,” added Nilda Cortes, whose son just started at the Avenue P school. “We won’t be able to grow if we are sharing a space with another school. It’s also a safety issue with more buses and more traffic.”

“I hope you can hear me, because you didn’t hear me last time when we sent you a resolution,” said Heather Fiorica, president of District 21’s Community Education Council. “Seth Low already had a co-location because of Hurricane Sandy. Don’t send Hurricane Eva [Moskowitz, the CEO of Success Academy] now! Are you listening to us? We are saying no.”

Elected officials showed up in droves, blasting Success Academy for the way it handled the public hearing regarding the co-location application. The hearing took place on Tuesday, September 24 at I.S. 228. Notice was sent out at 5:16 p.m. on Thursday, September 19, a religious holiday.

CEC 21 sent a letter to the Department of Education’s Division of Portfolio Planning requesting that the hearing be rescheduled. The only date provided was Thursday, September 26, also a religious holiday.

At a hearing regarding the co-location held on September 30, representatives from Success Academy did not identify themselves when asked by moderators, except for one student who acknowledged that she was “reporting back” what she heard.

“You didn’t give us proper notice for that sham hearing,” Councilmember Lew Fidler said. “If common sense and fairness doesn’t prevail here tonight, I’ll see you in court.”

Fidler went onto say that Bloomberg was “shoving” charter schools at the residents, who did not ask for them. “I beg, plead, implore with you that you show some independence, some cojones, to do the right thing,” he said.

“Ask yourself objectively and you will admit that what you are doing here tonight is not right,” added Councilmember David Greenfield. “Who in my neighborhood asked for a charter school? In fact, what we asked for was more middle schools.

“Seth Low was restructured to an academy model,” he went on. “All the space in the school is being utilized for the best interest of our children. You are literally turning over years of work.”

Councilmember Letitia James noted the amount of police presence at the vote. There were as many officers in the room as PEP members.

“The police department creates a hostile situation. It suggests that there hasn’t been a dialogue and you set up a situation where it’s us versus them,” she contended, noting that the infamous Brown vs. Board of Education case, which deemed “separate but equal” school illegal 50 years ago.

“You are setting up a system that’s separate and unequal,” James charged. “When some students have music, art, technology and are not allowed on certain floors; when there are two exits…Success is in violation of the Constitution.”

Councilmember Domenic Recchia accused the city of “crushing” his district, which is still recovering from Sandy.

“They don’t have houses and groceries. Don’t you ever think about what’s right and what’s wrong?” he said. “Let’s focus on putting money into Coney Island schools to get them back and running the way they should be.”

Recchia also said that Success’ claim that Seth Low’s building is being underutilized is “flawed.

“Some students need smaller class sizes and that’s what they are used for,” he said. “Now we know why they wouldn’t give us any new programs, because we had this plan.”

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