Parents: Hearing on Success Academy Fort Greene was a shambles — try again

Ft Greene-area district wants ban on new Success charter schools
Photo by Louise Wateridge

A public hearing last week on the future of a controversial Fort Greene charter school was a poorly publicized shambles that parents say only left them confused and frustrated — and now they’re demanding the city hold a do-over.

Locals were only told of the hearing on scandal-plagued Success Academy Fort Greene’s charter-renewal application on the morning of the Feb. 2 meeting, and the handful that did make it say neither the city nor school sent reps willing to answer their questions on the plan which — incorrectly, as it turns out — seemed to imply the elementary institution is adding a middle school.

“This whole process is moot and needs to be done over again,” said local dad Faraji Hannah-Jones, one of only 10 people who attended the hearing.

Success Academy’s Fort Greene location has been a hot-button issue in the area since 2015 news reports alleged it had kept a “got-to-go” list singling out difficult students and then harassed their families into leaving — resulting in several lawsuits and the local community education council demanding the charter-school network be banned from opening any new outposts in the district pending a probe into its disciplinary policies.

And yet, Community Education Council 13 only sent out an e-mail about the hearing that morning — even the principal of PS 265, where the school is co-located, said he found out that day. The voluntary panel of parents expected Success Academy to spread the word and only sent out the last-minute blast once it realized it hadn’t, according to member Ben Greene.

When parents did get the notice, they were baffled by its wording, which makes it seem like the institution is expanding with a middle school — and was of particular concern to families from PS 265, as they’re worried about losing more space.

“According to the renewal application, the school would grow to serve approximately 758 students in grades K–9,” it reads.

Department of Education and Success Academy officials later explained to this paper that the application is not expanding within PS 265 — the middle school will be in new facilities co-located with PS 297 in Williamsburg and PS 246 in Fort Greene — but their respective spokespeople at the meeting were unable to clear up the confusion.

In fact, the only person who came from Success Academy didn’t speak at all, which made it seem like the school doesn’t take locals’ concerns very seriously, said Hannah-Jones.

“I find it very interesting that the actual leadership isn’t here, I find it very insulting to a degree,” he said.

Ultimately, only four people actually took to the floor to voice their opinions on the application, including a member of community education council, who read out the panel’s previous resolution as a reminder of parents’ worries about the school.

But unless the city agrees to a second hearing, Thursday’s meeting is the only chance residents will have to share their thoughts on the charter renewal.

A Department of Education spokesman refused to say whether it will consider holding another hearing.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill