Big money could ‘PAVE’ the way for new Red Hook school

Parents win: Education Department agrees not to add charter school to Red Hook’s PS 15
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan

A controversial charter school sought to diffuse mounting tensions inside the Red Hook building it shares with a public school by dropping the bombshell news that has almost all the money it needs to build its own permanent facility.

The news from the PAVE Academy came in a call to The Brooklyn Paper on Thursday — one day after PS 15 parents held an emergency meeting to plot their next move against a charter school that the parents feel was plotting to push out the long-standing public school from the Wolcott Street building.

That fear reached a fever pitch last week when the Department of Education released an “educational impact statement” that declared the school building capable of accommodating PAVE, which opened in 2008 with a kindergarten and first grade program that is set to grow by one grade per year until it is K-7, for five more years.

“This is serious — our school has been targeted for termination,” said parent John Battis, at the raucous Wednesday meeting organized by the parent teacher association.

Most parents reiterated that PAVE originally promised that it would remain in the crowded building, which is between Richards and Van Brunt streets, for two years.

“The original plan was only for two years,” said Julie Cavanaugh, a special education teacher at PS 15. “It’s unacceptable, and a lie to this community.”

Adding into the drama is PS 15’s close ties to the hard-scrabble community. The school is officially named after Patrick Daly, the principal who was gunned down in 1992 during a gang gunfight, so the release of the city report was seen as a slap in the face to a community that has received more than a few.

Another slap in the face? The public hearing on the report was set to be held in Staten Island, though it was later moved to Brooklyn after an outcry from parents.

But the tension may cool down with the school’s announcement that its fundraising effort for a new building had been successful.

“We have $26 million from the Department of Education, and we’ve raised $6.2 million on our own,” said Wally Bazemore, a member of the PAVE Academy board of directors.

Bazemore added that the academy needs $6 million more to have full funding its own facility at Henry and Mill streets.

“We’ll shortly be knocking on the door to our building,” he said. “We want to be good neighbors [now], then get the hell out.”

The dispute is nothing unique in a city where educational achievement is often a function of political power, and, most important, physical space is at a minimum. At least 70 school buildings are in a similar situation in which a charter and public school share space, according to Department of Education spokeswoman Ann Forte.

Angry parents, including Kayan Robertson, protested the PAVE Academy at a meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
The Brooklyn Paper / Stephen Brown