The co-location situation

Amid criticism, Moskowitz will introduce new Brooklyn charter

Success Charter Network head Eva Moskowitz is making her first public appearance in Brownstone Brooklyn—and as usual, she will be joined by protesters.

Moskowitz is holding an informational session tomorrow to detail her plans for a new charter school that is likely to open in the affluent Cobble Hill neighborhood next year. Most of tomorrow’s protesters are parents from the neighborhood, who say they are planning to attend the meeting to tell Moskowitz that the Success Charter Network is not wanted there.

Opposition is also starting to rise from another group: School leaders in the Baltic Street building where the city has proposed to house the new school. The principals say they are nervous that the charter school’s presence could derail their attempts to improve their schools.

“We have had monumental success this year, and I’m concerned about how we can sustain that with another school added to the building, with the division of space,” Joseph O’Brien, principal of the School for Global Studies, one of the three schools currently housed in the building, told GothamSchools last week, before the co-location plan was announced. 

His school, which is in its second-year of “transformation,” a federally-funded school improvement program, moved from an F to a B on the annual high school progress reports this year. “I wonder, for a school that’s moved so far, how could they lay that at my feet?”

Another principal inside the building, Fred Walsh of the School for International Studies, said he is also worried the co-location will put a strain on the shared space, which the DOE identified as under-enrolled this year.

“To have four schools in the building, to put 190 more students in here, means huge class sizes, which would really, really impact our programming,” he said. “It would be really, really upsetting to both schools.”

Walsh’s and O’Brien’s schools enroll mostly African-American students, many of whom hail from public housing, in an neighborhood that is predominantly white. Nearby, P.S. 29 is known for its white, middle-class student body, while two other elementary schools, P.S. 261 and P.S. 58 in the neighboring Boerum Hill and Carroll Gardens communities, also serve largely middle-class populations.

Success Network officials defended the plans to colocate in other schools, citing the Independent Budget Office’s findings that district schools co-located with charter school are less likely to suffer from overcrowding issues.

“We’ve made the decision, so the goal of meeting is to introduce parents to our school model,” said Jenny Sedlis, Success Academy’s director of external affairs. She said the school will replicate the Success Charter Network schools in Manhattan, the Bronx, and the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

The parents organizing tomorrow’s protest were originally concerned that the charter would be located in their school, M.S. 447, a selective middle school with many middle-class families and a special program for autistic students. Parents there say they are relieved that their school is off the hook. But they said they would keep protesting Success Charter Network’s move into Brownstone Brooklyn.

“We know that things can always change. We are continuing to mobilize to keep the parents and community involved, until its really done and final decisions are made,” said Valerie Price Ervin, whose son attends M.S. 447.

Protesters from that school, other area schools, and several community organizations are planning to rally outside the Carroll Gardens Library tomorrow during Moskowitz’s presentation.

“If they’re not going to put it in our school, then we are still in opposition—not in 447, not in any public schools,” said Isemene Speliotis, a parent-teacher association member at M.S. 447 who is organizing the protest.

The purpose of Moskowitz’s meeting will be to demystify the charter school network’s academic philosophy for parents who are not familiar with charter schools, Sedlis said.

Though attendees will have an opportunity to provide feedback after hearing from Moskowitz, she said Success Academy leaders have already decided to move forward with their plans.

Rise & Shine

While you were waking up, the U.S. Senate took a big step toward confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary

Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as education secretary is all but assured after an unusual and contentious early-morning vote by the U.S. Senate.

The Senate convened at 6:30 a.m. Friday to “invoke cloture” on DeVos’s embattled nomination, a move meant to end a debate that has grown unusually pitched both within the lawmaking body and in the wider public.

They voted 52-48 to advance her nomination, teeing up a final confirmation vote by the end of the day Monday.

Two Republican senators who said earlier this week that they would not vote to confirm DeVos joined their colleagues in voting to allow a final vote on Monday. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska cited DeVos’s lack of experience in public education and the knowledge gaps she displayed during her confirmation hearing last month when announcing their decisions and each said feedback from constituents had informed their decisions.

Americans across the country have been flooding their senators with phone calls, faxes, and in-person visits to share opposition to DeVos, a Michigan philanthropist who has been a leading advocate for school vouchers but who has never worked in public education.

They are likely to keep up the pressure over the weekend and through the final vote, which could be decided by a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.

Two senators commented on the debate after the vote. Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has been a leading cheerleader for DeVos, said he “couldn’t understand” criticism of programs that let families choose their schools.

But Democrat Patty Murray of Washington repeated the many critiques of DeVos that she has heard from constituents. She also said she was “extremely disappointed” in the confirmation process, including the early-morning debate-ending vote.

“Right from the start it was very clear that Republicans intended to jam this nomination through … Corners were cut, precedents were ignored, debate was cut off, and reasonable requests and questions were blocked,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Week In Review

Week In Review: A new board takes on ‘awesome responsibility’ as Detroit school lawsuits advance

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
The new Detroit school board took the oath and took on the 'awesome responsibility' of Detroit's children

It’s been a busy week for local education news with a settlement in one Detroit schools lawsuit, a combative new filing in another, a push by a lawmaker to overhaul school closings, a new ranking of state high schools, and the swearing in of the first empowered school board in Detroit has 2009.

“And with that, you are imbued with the awesome responsibility of the children of the city of Detroit.”

—    Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens, after administering the oath to the seven new members of the new Detroit school board

Read on for details on these stories plus the latest on the sparring over Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Here’s the headlines:

 

The board

The first meeting of the new Detroit school board had a celebratory air to it, with little of the raucous heckling that was common during school meetings in the emergency manager era. The board, which put in “significant time and effort” preparing to take office, is focused on building trust with Detroiters. But the meeting was not without controversy.

One of the board’s first acts was to settle a lawsuit that was filed by teachers last year over the conditions of school buildings. The settlement calls for the creation of a five-person board that will oversee school repairs.

The lawyers behind another Detroit schools lawsuit, meanwhile, filed a motion in federal court blasting Gov. Rick Snyder for evading responsibility for the condition of Detroit schools. That suit alleges that deplorable conditions in Detroit schools have compromised childrens’ constitutional right to literacy — a notion Snyder has rejected.

 

In Lansing

On DeVos

In other news