new frontiers

Williamsburg Success charter school co-location details emerge

Two days before the Panel for Educational Policy is set to vote on Brooklyn co-locations for two Success Network charter schools, a proposal for a third school in the heart of Williamsburg is taking shape.

The Department of Education is expected to release the proposal as early as today for the school, which would open next year with about 180 students in Kindergarten and first grade. The school would be sited at J.H.S 50 John D Wells, a middle school with about 450 students.

The proposal comes weeks after a plan was announced to expand the Success Network into a more affluent part of the borough known as Brownstone Brooklyn in District 15. That announcement was met with fierce opposition from the district’s Community Education Council and from education activists who say that the school is not in demand from the community.

In both instances, the interest in entering new neighborhoods underlines a strategic shift for the Success charter network’s academic mission, which has previously been to concentrate on narrowing the achievement gap for low-income students living in poor communities. By opening in areas with larger populations of middle class families, Success Network head Eva Moskowitz said she wants to open enrollment at her schools to more affluent students.

Moskowitz has already expressed interest in opening a school in Williamsburg and its charter was approved for District 14 in September, but details about where it would be located were not certain.

The proposal will likely replace the Academy for Young Writers, a five-year-old school that is headed to east Brooklyn, where many of its students reside. The departure will leave the five-story school building’s top two floors vacant and at about 34 percent capacity.

Despite the available space, the plan will still most likely face steep opposition. Some protesters already began voicing concerns last month at a parent information session about the school, according to parents who attended the meeting.

The new Success school will open just as one long-standing elementary school in Williamsburg is set to close. Last week, the DOE picked P.S. 19, a century-old school that has struggled on standardized state test scores in recent years, to begin phasing out at the end of the school year.

The schools would follow the model of Upper West Success, which Moskowitz opened on Manhattan’s Upper West Side last year despite two lawsuits from community members who opposed the school.

Unlike the Upper West Side and Cobble Hill, however, Williamsburg is still emerging as a middle class family enclave. The pace of gentrification in the neighborhood has rapidly increased since 2005, when the city approved a series of re-zonings that paved the way to build high-rise condos and convert warehouses into luxury apartments. Now, average median income in many parts of Williamsburg are more than double the city average of about $38,000, according to census data.

“There’s still a huge, young artist community, but you’re starting to see more and more strollers,” said Alexandra Tremaine, a freelance photographer whose 4-year old daughter enters kindergarten next year. “You see it on the subways, you see on the streets. You can’t avoid it.”

Tremaine said she learned of the Success Network after attending an information session for parents and became convinced that she wanted to enroll her daughter in the Williamsburg school. She cited the school’s academic track record, but also said she had been disappointed with other school options since moving to the neighborhood in June.

“The options without the charter school are pretty grim, to the point where I would move,” Tremaine said.

Tremaine said that while she recognized that P.S. 84 was improving, she said she wasn’t willing to be a part of the process. “I just want the best education for my kid now,” Tremaine said.

“We think there’s a great need in Williamsburg,” said spokeswoman Jenny Sedlis.

The Cobble Hill Success plan will be voted on for approval by the Panel for Educational Policy on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at Newtown High School. The PEP will also vote on a proposal for a Success school planned to be co-located at P.S. 59 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a District 14 school. That proposal, while less controversial, has already been criticized by P.S. 59’s PTA president.

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.”