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.

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.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.