Critics of a plan to bring a politically connected charter school to Williamsburg blasted the school’s outreach efforts as “racist” at a heated public hearing on Tuesday.
The Success Charter Network is aggressively marketing its proposed Success Academy Williamsburg — an elementary school that would share space with JHS 50 on S. Third Street — with ads in subway stops and condo buildings. But some community leaders claim the advertising campaign proves the school is only recruiting white parents from the posh northside of the neighborhood while ignoring Latino parents south of Metropolitan Avenue.
“If you spend all your money on ads in the northside and barely put up ads in the southside, what does that say about who you are targeting?” said neighborhood activist Luis Garden Acosta, executive director of El Puente. “They only want the white middle-class members of Williamsburg, while we want to have Latino, black and white children in our schools.”
More than 500 community members, including two-dozen Occupy Wall Street activists, stormed into the southside junior high school where the city hopes to open the charter school for a chance to voice their opinions.
Paula Notari, a Williamsburg parent who is looking for schools for her two and four-year-old children, said she was excited about bringing the Success Charter Network to Williamsburg because her current options are “very limited.”
“I think that Success offers a curriculum that is not being offered, the school is extremely well-run and it has some of the most highly trained teachers in the country,” said Notari.
And Jackie Peale, whose son goes to school in Williamsburg, supports the Success school because she toured one in Manhattan and it “blew her mind.”
“They were solving problems at an extremely advanced level — in one class, children were teaching the other students how they arrived at their answer step-by-step,” said Peale.
But the majority of parents at the hearing spoke out against the city’s co-location plan — a proposal that was critiqued last week by vandals who subverted subway ads for the charter school with snarky stickers.
Williamsburg resident Elvin Deleon, who attended JHS 50 in 1984 and whose children study there now, said the city will “disturb the existing school’s program” and should try to improve the neighborhood’s middle schools first.
And Beka Economopoulos, who is nine-months pregnant and already thinking about schools, called the city’s selection process “undemocratic” and trashed Success Academy as a “corporate charter chain.”
“They’re moving into an area where it’s not needed at the same time that a local public school down the street is closing,” said Economopoulos. “The bigger issue is that this is happening without community empowerment.”
The Success Charter Network is behind some of the state’s highest-ranking schools, but the fast-growing program, run by former Manhattan Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, has sparked the ire of some parents in Boerum Hill, who fear another planned charter will overstretch already limited public school resources.
The charter group has powerful allies, including Mayor Bloomberg, who has called the Success Charter Network the city’s “most successful charter school operator.”
But it doesn’t have the backing of Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Williamsburg), who urged the city to reject the Success Academy co-location, claiming the plan would benefit few while ignoring the needs of many.
“The decision by the Department of Education to support Success Charter further perpetuates social inequalities that our community has struggled against for decades,” Reyna said.