CALL 311 TODAY to Fight a Success Academy Co-Location!

April 23, 2015 — Leave a comment
***Press Conference***
Our School Community Matters! VOTE NO on the Success Academy Co-Location at JHS145x Educational Complex
Friday April 24, 3:30 
Bronx Borough President’s Office 
851 Grand Concourse, at 161 Street 

CALL 311 TODAY to demand a change of location for the co-location vote regarding the Bronx schools at 1000 Teller Ave
.

It’s no secret that embattled Success Academy charter schools CEO Eva Moskowitz loves standardized testing. In a recent op-ed she wrote, “Tests aren’t perfect but something’s rotten in Denmark (or the Bronx) when a school has a 90 percent failure rate. Not having this data is as foolish as not installing a smoke detector.” One would hope Eva isn’t referring to the English Language Learners (ELL), Special Education students and Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE) who predictably score lower on standardized tests (and just so happen to be routinely barred from attending her Success Academies) as “rotten.” Regardless, she considers them displaceable. A proposal to co-locate grades 3 through 5 of her Success Academy Bronx 3 charter school on the site of three district middle schools at 1000 Teller Ave. is pending approval and the community is mobilizing to prevent it.

Moskowitz wants to move into the building because it is considered “under-enrolled.” That’s for two reasons: 1) the school included a fifth grade class up until two years ago when the district suddenly eliminated it; and 2) the formula that determines a building’s capacity does not take into account the lower capacity of special education classrooms protected by law to contain no more than 12 students at a time whereas general education classrooms are allowed up to 30. According to Jim Donohue, an 8th grade English teacher at Arturo Toscanini (MS145), there are no unused classrooms in the entire school. Should the proposal go through, 17 classrooms would be lost and their occupants displaced.

On April 16th a public hearing before the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) was held to gather community feedback on the proposed co-location. The auditorium at 1000 Teller Ave., home of Bronx middle schools Arturo Toscanini, the Urban Science Academy and New Millennium Business Academy, was packed with over 600 parents, teachers, students and community members. The overbearing orange of Success Academy t-shirts overwhelmed the crowd, yet the opposition was palpable. One student who spoke against the proposal said, “Why is Success Academy trying to invade our community when their schools have 2,500 empty seats? You are trying to break our community. You are taking away our main privilege – our space – which we need.”

Many people echoed that sentiment and directed comments to Ms. Moskowitz and Governor Andrew Cuomo, neither of whom were in attendance. One student declared, “This school is my school. Buh-bye. Leave.”

Sadly, the comment of a retired employee whose wife attended the school rings true: “This community has never gotten any respect.” Subsequent to losing a chunk of it’s student body, 1000 Teller Ave. was designated a Renewal School on account of low standardized test scores and lack of adequate operating funds. Twenty-six percent of the student body are ELLs, ten percent are in Special Education and 40 students receive SIFE programming. These populations typically do not fare well on biased standardized tests. According to the NYC DOE websiteRenewal Schools are supposed to be “accountable” for improving test scores or they will face “consequences.” It seems like engaging an entire school community in a Hunger Games-like fight for space during the weeks of high stakes testing and potentially forcing them to reorganize and re-establish their school community next school year is being set up to fail. Ostensibly, Renewal School status entitles struggling schools to needed supports. Taking away space, a resource closely linked to academic outcomes,  is working at cross purposes. If 1000 Teller Ave. can’t raise test scores under these circumstances they could face being closed and replaced. Ms. Moskowitz’s bold plans are indeed upsetting the challenging Renewal School process while positioning her to benefit from the fallout. Her actions give lie to the claim that she is driven by the interests of students, especially this city’s most disadvantaged.

Monday evening, while Ms. Moskowitz entertained guests at a Spring benefit that earned her 9.3 million dollars, a collection of public officials and NYC DOE administrators were seen touring 1000 Teller Ave.  A vote on the proposed co-location is scheduled for April 29th but to Jim Donohue, it feels as though the deal is done.

Mr. Donohue’s speech before the April 16th panel captured both the widely felt sense of community pride and the madness of pitting children against each other:

I’ve been here for 16 years, and they will have to drag me out of here to get me to leave, because I love my job. I love my co-workers, I love my principal, I love my assistant principal….but most of all, I love my students. They would tell you what I just said was “mad corny” but it’s true. I know that you folks from the Success Academy love your jobs, and your co-workers and your students, and I’m not here to attack you, or your school, or Ms. Moskowitz.

I admire your passion, and you’ve brought a lot of adorable kids here tonight. But I’d like you to imagine something. Imagine a warm April evening like this one 5 years from now. Imagine 8 busloads of people wearing GREEN shirts pull up in front of the SUCCESS ACADEMY COMPLEX, former home of public school MS 145.  (we’ll be out of your hair by then). What do these green-shirted people want? They want 15 of your classrooms. Maybe, like I did tonight, you overhear one of the green-shirted folks say to a child “These Success Academy people want to deny you an education!” What are you going to do? Will you agree with them? Success Academy teachers- will you quietly pack up your classrooms and move, as (incredibly)  I’m expected to do?

 

 

 

 

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