State ed boss overrules city on charter school inside PS 9

BREAKING: City closes a Prospect Heights middle school to make way for a charter
Community Newspaper Group / Andy Campbell

Turns out, you can fight City Hall and win.

Prospect Heights public school parents were ecstatic after State Education Commissioner David Steiner annulled the city’s decision to stuff an unwanted charter school into the PS 9-MS 571 building on Underhill Avenue.

“I am absolutely elated,” said parent Faye Rimalovski. “I started to cry. It made me believe that parents have a voice in the system.”

City officials accepted the late Thursday announcement, but vowed to revisit plans to phase out MS 571 and give its space to a charter school.

“We remain committed to co-locating Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter school [in] PS 9,” said Department of Education spokesman Matthew Mittenthal.

MS 571 remains on the city chopping block because its students have scored in the bottom 10 percent on math tests, and the bottom two percent on English tests in recent years.

The school earned a D grade on its city progress report last year, which gave it F grades in categories including student performance, progress and overall “school environment.”

A city education panel voted to phase out the middle school in February, but neighborhood parents did not back down from opposition to the charter school’s move from Crown Heights.

The state reversal stemmed from the city’s failure to show how all three schools would share resources such as the library, cafeteria and gymnasium.

“I am unable to conclude that the failure to comply with the statute’s requirements in this respect was harmless error,” Steiner said in a statement.

Parents are planning to present a counterproposal to the city for PS 9 to expand into a middle school — allowing the underperforming MS 571 to close, yet still serve middle-school–aged kids in the neighborhood.

For parents, bringing a charter school from another district into Prospect Heights didn’t address the neighborhood’s needs.

“We would have restricted access to our own facilities,” said Michelle French. “It’s just a real estate game for the city: where can they plop these charter schools.”