space wars

Kept from moving to another site, a Success school is evicted from its current one

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Success Academy students praised their schools and bemoaned the city's decision to cancel the co-locations during a press conference Thursday.

The city’s reversal of space-sharing plans includes a growing middle school whose fifth and sixth graders might have to start looking for a new school soon.

The school, Harlem Central Success Academy, is the only reversal among the six announced today that currently has students. The other five schools that lost space would have been brand new next year and hadn’t even accepted student applications yet.

As a result, Harlem Central is without a home when the year ends, since its current siting at a different building expires in June. It’s a situation that has sparked the most outrage from the Success Academy Charter School network, which also lost city-owned space for two elementary schools planned to open next year. 

The network, led by CEO Eva Moskowitz, quickly mobilized parents to a nearby school this afternoon for a meeting and press conference to blast the de Blasio administration’s decision.

“I come all the way from the Bronx…where the schools there are failing,” said Marion Fleming, a father whose son is a sixth grader at Harlem Central. “God knows that de Blasio can not do this.”

Last year, Harlem Central’s 51 fifth graders were the top-scoring academic cohort in the state on Common Core-aligned math tests, with more than 80 percent of students scoring proficient or above. Of the school’s 120 students, 78 percent qualify for lunch subsidies and 14 percent have Individualized Education Plans.

Since last year, Harlem Central has been temporarily housed at 21 West 111th Street, a school building that includes two magnet elementary schools looking to expand, a charter school and a District 75 program. Its co-location plan at the building is set to expire at the end of the school year and the new plan, approved late last year by the Bloomberg administration, was to continue expanding grades at another site about five blocks north.

But with that plan nixed, the school’s future is uncertain. It could possibly move into extra classroom space available at other Success sites. Another option is to secure private space, something that Success’ well-heeled backers could afford to pay for. But since she founded her first school in 2006, Moskowitz has argued that operating in private space, without extra facilities funding, was unfair because charter school students don’t receive any more per-pupil funding from the state.

“Public schools do not pay rent and we can not have a discriminatory policy,” Moskowitz said today when asked whether she would be willing to pay rent to stay in the building.

In a meeting with parents in an auditorium before the press conference, Moskowitz forecast the worst-case scenario, telling them that their school could cease to exist entirely.

“It’s going to be close,” Moskowitz said. The mayor just announced today that he’s going to close our beloved school.”

The network is planning to close its 22 schools on Tuesday and bus students, teachers and parents up to Albany for a large charter school rally that is focused on getting the attention of state lawmakers. Moskowitz did not respond directly when asked what she thought they could do about the co-location decisions, other than to say “we need political leadership.”

For de Blasio, a political opponent of Moskowitz since their days in the City Council, his decision has also drawn heat from his allies, though for opposite reasons.


City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is suing the city over the co-locations, said in a statement that she was “concerned” as how few of the plans were reversed, according to Politicker. And three City Council members with planned charter co-locations moving forward in their districts, sent out a statement saying they were “furious.” 

“I am extremely disappointed in the decision to allow the co-location of a charter school at I.S 96 (the Seth Low School) that our district does not need or want,” Council member David Greenfield said in a statement, referring to a plan for a new Success elementary school that was not reversed. “This co-location will come at the expense of the school’s dedicated staff and hard-working students.”

De Blasio defended the decision in a statement, saying that it was the best one he could make given the circumstances. De Blasio inherited dozens of the co-location plans that were passed just months before he took office, and although he made his opposition to them clear, he said today that it would have been difficult to reverse more plans.

“We were handed a series of last minute moves by the Bloomberg administration approving a number of co-locations in a way that I think was ill advised,” he said.

Correction: A previous version misstated the percentage of Success who scored proficient on state tests last year. 

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.”