They Shout Down Former Manhattan Councilwoman
By Mary Frost
COBBLE HILL — Waving signs and shouting out questions, parents from local schools interrupted an information session held Saturday by a charter school planning to move into Cobble Hill. The meeting, held at the Carroll Gardens library, broke up before head of Success Academy charter schools, former Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, could deliver her planned presentation.
When Moskowitz told the crowd, “Children need the arts,” several indignant parents called out, “You’re taking away arts from our children!” When she said that parents of special-needs children should have more options, the crowd hissed.
“You’re hissing at special-needs children?” Moskowitz asked.
“You don’t let special needs kids into your schools!” the crowd roared.
Many of the protesters said they feared that Success Academy Cobble Hill — to be co-located inside a building at 284 Baltic St. that already houses three public schools, including Brooklyn School for Global Studies — will disrupt existing programs and drain resources from their children.
“Why don’t you open in District 13 where they need schools?” other parents asked. Success Academy has been accused of pulling a “bait and switch” by applying for its charter in District 13, then switching to District 15 after the charter was approved.
“This information session is for parents. We’ll answer questions at the end,” Moskowitz said as the crowd grew increasingly bold in expressing their concerns.
“Go ahead and talk! Get to the point!” said one impatient father who had come to hear details about the school. As Moskowitz continued to speak in generalities about her experience on the City Council and her goals for Success Academy, the man continued, “You’re talking about yourself and not the school!” At that point Moskowitz ended the official meeting — though parents continued to talk amongst themselves.
One group, The Grassroots Education Movement, announced (via the “people’s microphone”) the screening of the anti-charter school film The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman (Nov. 9, P.S. 261, 6 p.m.).
“I’m personally happy with the way Eva left,” said Ismene Speliotis, parent of children who attend P.S. 447 and P.S. 261. “The way she left the meeting is the way she should take Success Academy and leave the neighborhood.”
“It’s not about being anti-charter,” she said. “It’s about finding a building for the charter school. Global Studies is really trying to become successful. They just renovated — there’s still scaffolding. Instead of putting in resources to make it a successful local high school, they’re putting in another elementary school.” Global Studies underwent a $2 million transformation in 2010, going from an F assessment to a B in the process. “They should go where they want to go,” she said, “but they should get their own facility.”
But another mom, Rachael (she didn’t want her last name used), said she was disappointed that Moskowitz didn’t finish her presentation. “I’m just here to learn,” she said. “It’s a joke. We’re not allowed to go to a forum to learn about something. We have a right to understand our options.”
“I’m disappointed at the level of vitriol,” said Devon Jarvis, a parent. But he said it was understandable given that Success Academy originally applied to open in District 13 and 14, not Cobble Hill’s District 15. “There was no public commentary meeting. We read in the newspaper that Eva Moskowitz was putting a charter school in my middle school. She needed to apply in District 15 — the result is public commentary here, at the wrong meeting,” he said.
“It’s a real threat to our schools,” said Dorothy Barnhouse. “They have a bigger budget, and they’re living rent free in our public school. I’m not opposed to charters — I’m opposed to co-locating charter schools in public schools because of the inequities that result,” she said. “They take the library, the science classroom, the dance studio and the pull-out spaces for speech therapy and small group instruction.”
A ‘Great Option for Parents’
Success Academy schools faced similar opposition before they opened on the Upper West Side. Several families from that school appeared at the meeting to back the school.
Mike Suchanek, whose child attends kindergarten at the West Side Success Academy, said in his experience the school is a “great option for parents. I’m thrilled we had a choice.” He said that his child didn’t get into the zoned school in his neighborhood because of overcrowding. But “I don’t know enough about the co-location issues,” he said.
Another West Side parent, J.C. Renners, is a strong backer of Success Academy. “We’re thrilled with the education our daughter is receiving.”
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