By Mary Frost
BROOKLYN — A charter school network headed by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz is planning to open two new charter schools in Cobble Hill and Williamsburg for the 2012-2013 school year, Success Academies school officials announced Friday.
Both Success Academy Cobble Hill and Success Academy Williamsburg will begin with kindergarten and first grade, and grow by one grade each year, ultimately serving kindergarten to eighth grade. Unlike regular public schools, students for charter schools are chosen by a lottery. The schools will be co-located inside existing public schools.
Another Success Academy opened in Bedford-Stuyvesant this fall, making nine Success Academies so far.
“One look at all the strollers on Court Street and Bedford Street provides all the proof you need that both Cobble Hill and Williamsburg have gone through a true baby boom in recent years,” Moskowitz said in a release. “While these neighborhoods do indeed have some good schools, they’re quickly filling up, and we’ve repeatedly heard from parents that they’re worried that their kids won’t have good school options. Success Academy Cobble Hill and Success Academy Williamsburg will give parents another great public school option.”
Moskowitz said that more than 1,500 residents in District 15 signed a petition requesting that a Success Academy come to their neighborhood. Students who live in District 15 — stretching from Red Hook to Park Slope — would have first preference for admission. The academy in Williamsburg will be in District 14.
Critics of the network’s bid to open a charter school on the Upper West Side battled ferociously — though unsuccessfully — to keep a Success Academy from opening in their district. Opponents of charter schools in general say that the schools drain investment and support from existing public schools and are given more than their fare share of resources when they share a school’s building.
But Melissa Benson, president of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, said in the Success Academy statement, “Our community is strengthened by the presence of as many high-quality schools as we can have.” While the synagogue is located in District 13, Benson told the Brooklyn Eagle that many members live in District 15.
“I’m somewhat agnostic on the question of the charter school controversy,” she said Friday. “But I’m in favor of all efforts to bring high-quality education to our community. I’m not ideologically opposed or specifically endorsing them — but I understand they have a strong track record and am very much in favor of all options.”
The four Success Academy Schools that have received progress reports this year were given “A’s.” “Kindergarten enrollment in this neighborhood has grown significantly over the last five years, so we want to take the proactive step of proposing a new, excellent elementary school for this community,” Marc Steinberg, the Department of Education’s deputy schools chancellor for portfolio planning said in a statement. “The Success Charter Network is an organization with a strong track record, and we anticipate there will be great interest in this school in the community.”
Two Schools Mentioned
While a final decision about their schools’ locations has not yet been made, an article in the New York Times mentions two existing schools with hundreds of unfilled seats — the Math and Science Exploratory School (which shares the building with Brooklyn High School of the Arts) at 345 Dean St., and Brooklyn School for Global Studies/Brooklyn School for International Studies at Baltic and Court streets.
“It’s hard to say what the reaction will be,” said Robert Perris, district manager of Community Board 2, which covers 345 Dean St. Perris said a representative from Success Academy Network “spoke to our Youth, Education and Community Affairs Committee on Feb. 23 this year, explaining that they were looking at this area as a possible location for a school. They did not identify a location at that time.” A spokesperson for Global Studies said the school had no comment about the report.
Children attending Success Academies wear orange and blue uniforms, and follow a strict and fast-paced curriculum. The school day and school year are both longer than traditional public school. Children who are tardy must attend Saturday academy with their parents.
According to the educational website InsideSchools.org, “Moskowitz strives to offer children a rich curriculum that includes daily science experiments, exposure to the arts and frequent class trips. Like most charter schools, teachers are not unionized; they serve ‘at will’ and may be fired by the principal.” School applications will be available in mid-October (the school websites will launch by Oct. 17 at www.cobblehill.successacademies.org and www.williamsburg.successacademies.org