Success’s success! City approves controversial charter’s W’burg bid

Success’s success! City approves controversial charter’s W’burg bid
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

A city panel gave a controversial new charter school the go-ahead to open in Williamsburg, but parents and community leaders vowed to do whatever it takes to stop elementary school from coming to their neighborhood this fall.

The Panel for Education Policy voted 7–1 to issue a charter to Success Academy Williamsburg, one of seven primary schools that the fast-growing, politically connected Success Charter Network hopes to manage in Brooklyn next year.

“It’s very exciting,” said Success Charter CEO and former Manhattan Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz. “Parents waited a long time for this. You can just imagine how nerve wracking it is for parents not to know where their child will go to school this fall.”

The vote came three hours after a Manhattan judge heard a lawsuit filed by more than 60 Brooklyn parents seeking to postpone the panel’s meeting and prevent the new school from setting up shop inside a S. Third Street building it would share with the struggling public middle school MS 50.

Charter school opponents argued that the Success Charter Network failed to conduct enough outreach among Spanish-speaking families in Williamsburg and denied the existence of neighborhood opposition to the proposal — a possible violation of state laws.

But the judge ruled that the vote itself would not be irreversible and could proceed, scheduling the next hearing on the lawsuit for April 2.

Occupy Wall Street protestors marched to Fort Green Park on Thursday to demonstrate against the proliferation of charter schools in public school buildings.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Critics of the Success Academy Williamsburg say they are not giving up their fight.

“The community must have meaningful input into the process — and no such thing happened,” said Advocates for Justice’s Arthur Schwartz, an attorney for the parents. “By not reaching out, they knew of no opposition. This is the first time we’re seeking to enforce the ‘community outreach’ aspect of the law.”

Moskowitz called the suit “legal harassment” and promised to proceed “full speed ahead” toward hiring principals and teachers for her planned 200-child school in the next three months.

“We followed the procedures and looked at them very carefully,” said Moskowitz, whose high-performing schools have won the backing of Mayor Bloomberg. “It’s unfortunate — you used to use the law to get more options for kids, now you’ve got people using it to stop opportunity and excellence.”

In the hours before the vote, scores of parents, community leaders, and students joined Occupy Wall Street protestors in Fort Greene Park to rail against the proposed charter school, which opponents claim is targeting children of affluent parents in Williamsburg’s Northside rather than English language learners in the neighborhood’s more Latino Southside.

“Outrage is important — we will not tolerate discriminatory practices in our neighborhood,” said Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D–Williamsburg), who called for an investigation into the marketing and outreach practices of Success.

Eva Moskowitz, founder of the Success Charter Network, cheered a city ruling that gives her organization the green-light to open a charter school in Williamsburg.

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