Success Academy cancels its plans to open new schools in 2015

The Success Academy charter school network has abandoned plans to open four schools in the upcoming school year, city and Success Academy officials have confirmed.

A Success spokeswoman said the network canceled those plans last month during negotiations with the city, which ended with Success being offered public space for 10 schools opening or expanding in 2016. The decision to scrap the more immediate plans was not disclosed until Thursday.

The changes mean the network will not open any new schools in 2015 — an unprecedented slowdown for Success, which has grown into the city’s largest charter management organization since its founding in 2005. The network is still continuing to add grades at existing schools, including two whose single-grade expansions are awaiting approval from the Panel for Educational Policy.

The announcement offers a clearer look at Success’ long-term plans for collaborating with the de Blasio administration and with a new charter-school law. Spokeswoman Ann Powell said that Success had decided to defer its requests for public space for the four schools because it was “happy with the space we’ve been given” for the other schools.

“It seemed like a reasonable thing to defer the other requests,” she said.

Even after deferring requests for public space — and thus taking the chance to appeal to the state for funding to open in private space off the table — Success still could have opened the schools by finding and paying for private space, though it has decided not to do so.

A Department of Education spokesman said that the city did not play a role in Success’ decision not to open new schools in 2015.

The four elementary schools would have opened in Manhattan’s Districts 1 and 3, the Bronx’s District 9, and Queens’ District 27. SUNY approved the schools last October, and the plans were on track as recently as December.

Community members and elected officials said the news caught them by surprise on Thursday. It was disclosed after city education department abruptly canceled a hearing in District 1, where one of the schools was set to open.

City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, who represents part of District 1, said a notice that a school was not coming to that area for at least two years was not sent to community members or elected officials until late Wednesday night.

“It’s a real lack of transparency and it’s really leaving the community out of any decision making or any input into what they want to see,” Mendez added.

Lisa Donlan, a member of District 1’s Community Education Council, called the change “very surprising.”

“These things seemed like they were already determined. It just seems like a backtracking of things that were in motion,” she said.

Achievement First, another large charter network that had request public school space from the city, also pulled its request and has canceled plans for three schools, also approved by SUNY, to open next year. A spokeswoman said Achievement First planned to opening the schools in public space in 2016.