course correction

City nixes space-sharing plans for three Success charters and three new district schools

Last updated: 6:40 p.m.

The de Blasio administration is reversing space-sharing plans for nine schools set to open next year, entirely nixing three Success Academy charter schools and three district schools, the city announced this afternoon.

The other three schools, two middle schools and a high school, will be able to open in different spaces, pending approval from the city’s Panel for Educational Policy. The nine schools were among 49 whose space-sharing plans were approved in the waning months of the Bloomberg administration.

But the numbers show that, despite de Blasio’s anti-charter school rhetoric, the city ultimately left alone the majority of the new school plans that the administration inherited in January—including seven Success Academy schools set to open next fall. In all, 24 charter schools will be allowed to open in city-owned space next year, including more than a dozen co-location plans that received a free pass because they had been approved last June and earlier.

The announcement doesn’t address the status of four new schools approved to open in 2015. A fourth charter school, American Dream Charter School, will be allowed to open with fewer classes than it planned.

“The previous administration handed over these proposals – and we have had to review all of them under inflexible deadlines,” Fariña said in a statement. “While the circumstances for each proposal are unique, we identified clear criteria and we followed it. But more importantly, as enrollment deadlines approach, we considered the thousands of families that could be affected.  We were deliberate in our decisions and, under the circumstances we inherited, believe this is the best approach.”

Today marks the culmination of de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s promised review of the recently passed plans. A spokesman for the department said the decisions were based on four criteria, including the their impact on programs serving students with disabilities, whether they would place elementary school students in high school buildings, and the messiness of the plan’s logistics. A fourth factor was the size of the school, with the city indicating it did not want to increase the number of schools with fewer than 250 students.

In a statement, de Blasio cast the decisions as a rational response to his administration’s priorities.

“We set out consistent, objective criteria to protect school communities from unworkable outcomes,” he said. “And today, we are taking the best possible path forward, rejecting those proposals that do not meet our values, and working with school communities on those proposals that can be implemented responsibly.”

The fact that all three charter schools whose plans were reversed are Success Academies did not come as a surprise. Success CEO Eva Moskowitz told board members this week that she expected some of her schools to be affected and she said she planned to sue the city over the decision. Moskowitz will host a press conference in Harlem later this afternoon where she will comment on the decision. 

She also is also taking part in a large rally next week in Albany to ask state lawmakers for extra funding and legislative action to allow charter schools to access pre-kindergarten funding.

New York City Charter School Center CEO James Merriman strongly criticized the decision in a statement.

“Mayor de Blasio’s recommendation to halt three public charter school co-locations and reduce the enrollment of a fourth is a disappointment for the students and their parents who have been looking forward to attending the school of their choice this fall,” Merriman said. “Hundreds of families have applied for schools that are part of a charter school network with unmatched academic results that now will likely not open.”

But de Blasio allies, including United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, praised the move despite its limited scope.

“I’m glad the DOE has taken an important first step in vetoing some particularly troublesome pending co-locations,” said Mulgrew, who sued the city over co-location plans last year. 

Meanwhile, a few principals were ecstatic. At Long Island City High School, one of the city’s remaining large high schools, the city had planned to reduce enrollment and add a new district high school to the building next year.

When principal Vivian Selenikas got a phone call this morning that the decision had been reversed, she was thrilled.

“Today is a wonderful day,” she said. “As I told my staff, our mascot is a bulldog. And sometimes being bulldogs with a bone makes all the difference when something isn’t right.”

The principals at East Harlem Scholars Academies and Central Park East High School were also pleased that plans for a grade expansion and co-location of a district school in their building was withdrawn today.

“Although we wholeheartedly support the desire to expand middle school options across the city, we agree with the Chancellor that this particular plan was unworkable,” principals Cheyenne Batista São Roque and Bennett Lieberman said in a statement.

Principals on the other side of the decisions were significantly less enthusiastic. Those included Melissa Melkonian, principal of American Dream Charter School, whose school will be allowed to open but with fewer students.

“We are disappointed in today’s  decision by the de Blasio administration, which means that many families now see their child’s chances of attending American Dream Charter School drop,” she said in a statement.

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.”