Following a report detailing Success Academy schools trying to remove unruly students, school founder Eva Moskowitz denied any systematic effort to push students out of her schools, took responsibility for the oversight of her school leaders, and elicited a tearful apology from the principal who created the list.
In a lengthy press conference, Moskowitz focused on the “Got to Go” list described in the New York Times and said she is not aware of similar lists at other schools. But her statements, and the testimony of a number of Success principals, affirmed that the charter network’s strict discipline policies do not make Success the best fit for every child, particularly those with special needs.
“A mistake was made here and I take personal responsibility as the leader of this organization for that happening under my watch,” Moskowitz said. “We are not perfect. We are a work in progress. This is incredibly humbling and difficult work.”
Success Academy is the largest charter-school network in New York City, serving 11,000 students, and its schools post impressive test results in traditionally hard to serve communities. Critics have long accused the network of posting high test scores by pressuring undisciplined students to leave.
But on Friday, Moskowitz made it clear that she would make no such admission. Instead, she said the “Got to Go” list at the network’s school in Fort Greene, Brooklyn runs counter to Success’ beliefs. Candido Brown, the principal who created the list, she said, was reprimanded immediately and the list only existed for three days, she said.
“What this incident illustrates is that it is not our policy to have ‘Got to Go’ lists or to push out students,” Moskowitz said.
She did not address the other incidents detailed in the New York Times article, including threats to call 911 and repeated meetings designed to wear parents down until they withdrew their students.
Moskowitz defended Brown as a person of “high moral character” and said that firing him would be “profoundly wrong.” But she also provided reporters with email correspondence in which she called Brown “stubborn” and “somewhat dense.”
Brown stood behind Moskowitz as she spoke and then took the podium and delivered an emotional apology.
“As an educator I fell short of my commitment to all children and families at my school and for that I am deeply sorry,” he said, speaking through tears. His actions, he said, were driven by desperation to turnaround a struggling school.
“I was doing what I thought I needed to do to fix a school where I would not send my own child,” he said.
Moskowitz and other Success Academy leaders have frequently compared the schools in their network to district schools, making the case that Success provides superior educational opportunities. At several press conferences and this year, Moskowitz has called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to treat charter schools as equals and provide them with better space and funding.
Yet on Friday, Moskowitz said that “a very small percentage of kids,” particularly those with special needs, might not find the right support at Success and should instead consider a district school.
“Success may not be the absolute best setting for every child,” she said.