space wars

Proponents of Cobble Hill pre-K: We have "grassroots" support

Parents and elected officials speak out in favor of a plan to open an early childhood center instead of a charter school.

A day before a public hearing about a space-sharing proposal that would bring the Success Charter Network to Brownstone Brooklyn, advocates of an alternative plan took to the street to promote their idea.

The counter-proposal, made after the Department of Education announced it had chosen a Baltic Street school building for the charter school chain’s newest outpost, would use the space instead for a preschool.

Success Charter operator Eva Moskowitz suggested in the New York Post today that the counter-proposal came from the teachers union in an attempt to block her school from getting space in the building.

That’s “absolutely not true,” said Jeffrey Tripp, the UFT chapter leader at the School for International Studies, one of the schools in the building, at a press conference today. He said the preschool proposal is supported by a “grassroots movement.”

“I’m proud to be a member of the UFT but this [alternate proposal] is not something the UFT was behind,” he said.

The plan — for which DOE officials say no application has yet been received — was first floated by a retired DOE official and a local politician in response to the DOE’s plan to site Cobble Hill Success Academy in the building that International Studies shares with the School for Global Studies and a special education program. It’s also being supported by the Alliance for Quality Education, an advocacy group.

The dust-up has AQE, which typically advocates against school closures and co-locations on the grounds that they are unfair to poor and minority students, in the position of supporting a preschool program that would likely serve many affluent families.

Today, Assemblywoman Joan Millman explained that an early childhood center would serve children zoned for P.S. 261, P.S. 29, and P.S. 58, three popular neighborhood schools whose pre-K classes cannot accommodate every family that seeks a spot.

“I have noticed increasing numbers of parents who come to me and say they can’t get into local schools,” Millman told me.

Parents from some of those schools and others spoke at the press conference today, saying that the neighborhood needs both pre-K and middle school options. Putting pressure on the two secondary schools in the Baltic Street building would make them unlikely middle school destinations for local families in the future, they said. (The schools currently struggle to attract students from the immediate vicinity.)

Under the DOE’s space-sharing proposal, International Studies would go from 36 full-size and nine half-size classrooms to 21 full-size and four half-size classrooms. Global Studies would lose an even higher proportion of its classrooms, dropping to 15 full-size and five half-size classrooms from 32 and 11, respectively.

In contrast, parents and officials said today, an early childhood center would require just five classrooms and put little strain on shared spaces, meaning that International Studies’ culinary arts space and Global Studies’ new computer lab would not be in jeopardy.

Plus, students from the middle and high schools could volunteer in the preschool classes, suggested Melinda Martinez, the mother of four International Studies students. She said her oldest son selected the school because of its culinary arts program.

Several parents from the School for International Studies joined the press conference. No one from the School for Global Studies participated.

Millman told me that the controversy over Cobble Hill Success suggests that she and other legislators erred when writing the state’s charter school law in the 1990s. They should have allocated funding for charter schools to find space so they wouldn’t have to compete with traditional public schools, she said.

In District 15, where Cobble Hill is located, three of the four charter schools already open are either housed in private space or are in the process of constructing their own buildings.

A public hearing about the co-location will take place tomorrow at the Baltic Street building. The Panel for Educational Policy, the city’s school board, is scheduled to vote on the proposal next month. It has never rejected a DOE proposal.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”