Fort Greene

Brooklyn’s CEC 13 calls for moratorium on Success Academy charter school expansion

Follows accusations of harassment, ‘Got to Go’ list

December 28, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Success Academy parents showed up en masse at a politically-charged rally in Downtown Brooklyn in October. Photo by Mary Frost
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Following accusations that Success Academy charter schools weed out challenging and low-performing students by harassing them and their parents, the District 13 Community Education Council (CEC) has called for a moratorium on the network’s future co-locations in the district.

District 13 includes Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Wallabout, Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, and parts of Prospect Heights.

The parent council also urged the State University of New York (SUNY), which oversees the charter schools, to make the moratorium citywide “until such time that Success Academy can meet with CEC leaders and other parent leaders citywide to assuage concerns about suspension policies.”

If warranted, CEC 13 wants SUNY to revoke Success Academy Fort Greene’s charter to operate.

In October, the New York Times revealed that some administrators in the hedge fund-backed charter network, headed by former Councilmember Eva Moskowitz, singled out children they would like to see leave.

One mother was distraught when she found out that her daughter was on a list called “Got to Go.”

Others told the Times that their lives were “upended” by repeated suspensions and demands that they pick up their children early or meet with school staffers. At Success Academy Fort Greene, some parents said they were told explicitly that the elementary school “was not right for their children and that they should go elsewhere.”

Success Academy strongly denies the accusation that the network weeds out students.

On Monday, Brian Whitley, director of Media Relations for Success Academy, told the Brooklyn Eagle that the school has received “overwhelming support from District 13 families, who continue to demand high-quality schools. More than 800 children who live in the district were entered into our admissions lottery last year. More than 300 children who live in District 13 are currently enrolled at a Success Academy school.”

Success parents speak at CEC meeting

CEC 13 invited Moskowitz or her delegate to attend their working session on Dec. 8, “but they chose not to attend our meeting — instead sending a letter on the afternoon of Dec. 8th which failed to address many of our concerns and which because of its timing … did not permit dialogue about it,” according to CEC 13.

At that meeting, three Success Academy parents, including two from Success Academy Fort Greene, provided testimony to the CEC validating the examples cited in the Times article, the CEC said.

“It’s clear to us in CEC 13 that the state has not been doing its job when it comes to overseeing what goes on behind closed doors at Success Academy schools. Success Academy uses public money yet doesn’t seem to be held accountable for questionable discipline policies,” David Goldsmith, CEC 13’s president, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Monday.

He added, “Testimony by former Success Academy parents at our last Working Session was alarming to say the least. Children and parents face constant harassment with no recourse.”

In her reply to CEC 13, Moskowitz said that the Got to Go list “existed for only three days in December of 2014,” and that the principal involved was “quickly reprimanded.” Principal Candido Brown “acknowledged that he made a serious mistake, and he immediately changed his approach” and publicly apologized, Moskowitz wrote.

Success’ Whitley says that the data shows that Success has a lower rate of student attrition than district schools. He said that Success schools have about a 10 percent annual student attrition, compared with 14 percent for elementary schools citywide and 19 percent for District 13 elementary schools. (District 13 middle schools have a 12 percent attrition rate.)

Besides imposing a moratorium, CEC13 wants the state to require all charter school operators applying to co-locate in District 13 to present a “detailed plan for how they handle discipline, suspensions, and expulsions, including and especially the role of parents in their escalated discipline process” – subject to review by the CEC and other parent leaders.


Updated 12/29/2015 with additional comments from Success Academy.

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