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. 

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.