When students arrived at Success Academy’s high school last week, some found a surprising figure at the front of their class.
Their economics teacher from day one was gone, having resigned just hours into the school year. In his place: Culver Grannis Moskowitz, the son of Success CEO Eva Moskowitz.
“I was kind of confused,” said Keyarah Gadsden, an 11th grader in Culver Moskowitz’s economics class.
Culver Moskowitz, who is 19 or 20 and has yet to earn a college degree, is teaching economics classes at the network’s high school. Now, parents — some already frustrated by the school’s policies — are questioning his role teaching a course that will culminate in an Advanced Placement test.
“Isn’t AP supposed to be college-level material?” asked Amanda Santiago, whose daughter is in one of his classes. “If he hasn’t graduated college, how is he teaching college-level material?”
Success confirmed that Culver Moskowitz is enrolled in Columbia University’s School of General Studies, which grants bachelor’s degrees, and said he is one of several curriculum interns at the network. A roster obtained by Chalkbeat lists Culver Moskowitz as the teacher of a course titled “political economy,” though Success says he is only filling in temporarily and is not the class’ teacher of record.
“Last week, he filled in after one of the high school teachers left,” Success spokeswoman Anne Michaud said in a statement. “The economics teacher is in training and is starting on September 4.”
Culver Moskowitz’s role is the latest move to raise eyebrows at Success Academy High School for the Liberal Arts, part of New York City’s largest and most controversial charter network, which posts top test scores and graduated its first students last year. The high school spent last year in chaos, Chalkbeat reported last week, as students protested new dress code and grade retention rules. Most teachers left the school at the end of the year.
The all-hands-on-deck staffing effort also raises questions about whether Success will be able to find the personnel it needs as it continues to expand, both at the high school and across the 47-school network. Eva Moskowitz has said she hopes to reach 100 schools in New York City.
Success officials argue that their high standards are essential in getting its students, most of whom come from low-income families, through college. Natasha Venner, a former teacher at the high school, said allowing someone who hadn’t graduated from college to enforce those standards smacks of hypocrisy.
“It’s insulting as a teacher,” she said.
Still, multiple students said they are enjoying Culver Moskowitz’s economics class. Some said it was odd having a teacher only a year or two older than some students, though.
“It’s just weird,” said senior Reanna Phillips.
Michaud says Culver Moskowitz makes minimum wage, as he did last year as an intern at Success Academy Harlem East, a middle school. Santiago, Venner, and a former student said he taught eighth-grade math classes there last year.
Charter schools operate with fewer rules around hiring than district schools, which have specific anti-nepotism policies that prohibit city employees from hiring close relatives as well as certification requirements. A share of each charter school’s teachers can be uncertified.
SUNY Charter Schools Institute, which oversees the Success schools, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.
Eva Moskowitz has been a vocal advocate for rules that would allow charter schools authorized by SUNY to certify their own teachers, which has drawn criticism from some of New York state’s top education officials. Those rules were approved in 2017 but recently struck down by a judge.
“In the midst of a widely recognized teacher shortage, SUNY’s vote today ensures that kids of color will have access to great teachers and exceptional educational outcomes,” Eva Moskowitz said when those rules were first approved.