Redefining Success: Controversial charter ups marketing amid lawsuit • Brooklyn Paper

Redefining Success: Controversial charter ups marketing amid lawsuit

Scores of Success Academy parents and students from Harlem showed their support for charter schools at a public hearing in Williamsburg.
Community Newspaper Group / Aaron Short

The secret to Success might be pizza.

The charter school group behind a controversial plan to open an elementary school in Williamsburg is stepping up its marketing efforts with pizza parties and pamphleteering to recruit new students and win neighborhood support after angry parents sued the organization for stifling opposition and not conducting community outreach in the Latino Southside.

Last Wednesday, Success Charter Network served slices to moms and dads who had applied to the new school, which will share space in a S. Third Street building with MS 50 at Anna Maria Pizzeria on Bedford Avenue.

Between bites, dozens of parents showed support for the charter by signing an affidavit that Success may use in court to prove it has the backing of the community.

Success officials said the pizza wasn’t part of its new marketing pitch, but said the school’s outreach efforts match those used at their charters in Manhattan and elsewhere in Brooklyn.

“We planned consistent outreach in the neighborhood up until the application deadline,” said Success external affairs director Jenny Sedlis.

But opponents of the school see the pizza promotion — coupled with new bilingual advertisements at bus and subway stations, a wave of mailings, and eager canvassers dispatched outside Greenpoint’s PS 31 and PS 34 — as an effort to re-shape public opinion surrounding the politically connected charter.

Angry neighborhood parents sued the Success Charter Network, the Department of Education, and the State University of New York earlier this month, accusing school officials of not conducting enough outreach in Williamsburg’s Hispanic community.

The suit didn’t stop the city from approving the school’s charter, but a court could still block Success’s plan.

Opponents have long complained that the high-ranking schools — run by former Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz — are targeting affluent parents in the Northside and Greenpoint and instead of Latinos.

“They’re going to the two highest performing schools in Greenpoint two miles away and there’s no reason for that,” said North Brooklyn parent Brooke Parker. “They’re trying to poach kids out of those schools.”

Despite opponents’ allegations of selective recruiting — including ones slapped over Success’s English language subway station posters — the charter network insists it is targeting Spanish-speaking students.

“We’ve done extensive outreach in Spanish which is reflected in the fact that one-third of applicants are English Language learners,” said Sedlis.

Sedlis said public outreach is an “ongoing process” and that Success would send out two more rounds of mailers before the end of the month.

So far, the Success Charter Network has received 700 applications — 196 from families in the neighborhood — for its Williamsburg school, and 950 applicants — 260 from families in the area — for its planned Cobble Hill academy.

The Williamsburg school, which Success hopes to open in August, would start with 190 kindergarten and first grade students and add one grade per year through eighth grade. Children obtain entry to the school through a lottery intended to give preference to families living in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick.

Reach reporter Aaron Short at ashort@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2547.

Protesters railed against the Success Charter Network — which is in the midst of a marketing campaign —before the city approved the group's planned Williamsburg elementary earlier this month.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

More from Around New York