Controversial charter pitches another school — in nabes it jilted

Power couple pushes for two more charters in Williamsburg
Community Newspaper Group / Aaron Short

A politically connected charter school network that is being sued after promising to open in a district stretching from Brooklyn Heights to Bedford-Stuyvesant, then opening elsewhere, is again asking permission to start a school in the area it jilted.

The latest addition to the rapidly expanding Success Charter Network is a proposed K–8 facility that would open in fall of 2013 in District 13, which includes parts of Downtown, Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant — a swath of the borough it controversially skirted after getting the go-ahead from the state to launch an elementary school in the zone.

Jenny Sedlis, a director at the charter superpower headed by former Manhattan Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, said the proposed school will be a boon to neighborhood parents.

“Families across New York City share a common goal — providing their children with the very best education possible,” said Sedlis, whose charter network already runs two schools in Bedford-Stuyvesant and is trying to open two charters in Prospect Heights and Crown Heights, and one in Williamsburg. “That’s what we want to provide.”’

Success officials declined to say which under-capacity public schools they are eyeing as possible shared homes for their new charter, but said the school will start with 180 kindergartners and first-graders before adding more grade levels.

Sedlis say that more than 1,500 residents of District 13 have signed a petition supporting a new Success Academy — but some parents are furious with the charter chain, claiming its schools take valuable space from struggling public schools.

“This is a corporate takeover of public schools,” said Cobble Hill parent Gloria Mattera. “Eva Moskowitz can do whatever she wants, and the mayor and chancellor allow it to happen.”

Mattera is part of a cadre of parents who filed a lawsuit against Success earlier this month — arguing that the network circumvented state education rules by planting an elementary school in Cobble Hill, a posher section of District 15, when it was only approved to open in the Downtown district or District 14, which includes parts of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Rob Perris, district manager of Community Board 2, said that many residents are suspicious of the charter’s business plans because of its previous switcheroo.

“The board is not prepared to go down that road again,” Perris said.

Success Charter Network is also facing a backlash in Williamsburg, where moms and dads are trashing Moskowitz’s academy as a “corporate charter chain” that didn’t advertise to minority groups.

Supporters of the Success Charter Network point out that its schools are some of the highest-ranking in the state — with 95 percent of pupils passing the state test in reading and 81 percent passing in math, compared to city averages of 62 percent and 51 percent, respectively.

Mayor Bloomberg even called on the program to speed up its expansion plans as part of his goal to open 50 new charters over the next two years.

If all of Success’s pending schools are approved, the network will boast seven learning institutions in Brooklyn. The Achievement First network leads the borough with nine charter locations.

Reach Kate Briquelet at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.

Opponents of the planned Williamsburg “co-location” say the charter network hasn't done enough outreach to the neighborhood's Latino community.
Community Newspaper Group / Aaron Short