recy dunn

First Person

New York

DOE collapses charter schools office as charter landscape shifts

Outgoing Charter Schools Office Executive Director Recy Dunn responds to a parent who was challenging the city's decision to close Peninsula Preparatory Academy in January. While one tightly organized contingent of the city's charter school sector prepared to stage a rally outside City Hall today, the Department of Education was shaking up its charter schools bureaucracy. The Charter Schools Office's executive director, Recy Dunn, is leaving the department, and the office is being subsumed into a broader division responsible for managing the opening, closing, and siting of schools, Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg announced in an email to his staff today. Eliminating the Charter Schools Office is in some ways a remarkable move for the department, which has made charter schools a central prong of its reform strategy. But in other ways it is unsurprising, because the office lost momentum and authority in 2010, when legislators stripped the city of the right to award new charters. Now, all new schools are authorized by either the State Education Department or SUNY's Charter Schools Institute. The city's role has been to assess existing schools, supporting them when they fall short of their promises and closing schools that do not improve. This year, the department moved to close two schools that had faced academic and management problems and backed off of a threat to close a third struggling charter school. Both closures are currently on hold because of parent lawsuits challenging the validity of the department's closure decision. A charter schools insider who worked with Dunn at the department said Dunn was well liked but that the ongoing court battles had reflected poorly on his office.
New York

Parents contest charter schools proposed for crowded District 2

A hearing about Success Academy's proposed expansion into District 2 drew a standing-room-only crowd Tuesday evening. A public hearing to discuss Success Academy’s bid to open two new charter schools in Manhattan’s District 2 next year was dominated by angry residents who said the district’s schools are too crowded to share space. Parents from the district and members of its elected parent council said they opposed the proposal from the charter network because the district — which includes the Upper East Side down through Greenwich Village, Tribeca, and Lower Manhattan — is already overcrowded. The council passed resolutions at the end of March calling for Success Academy to find its own building instead of moving into existing public schools and for a moratorium on charter school applications in the district. “You can come in if you’re invited, but if the families are saying don’t come in, I don’t think you should come in,” said Shino Tanikawa, president of the Community Education Council for District 2. Tanikawa said she thinks of charter schools as “vampires.” Most parents at the public hearing had children enrolled in one of the six schools located at the Julia Richman Education Complex on the Upper East Side or P.S. 158, whose co-located school, P.S. 267, is set to depart for its own space in September. “What you’re essentially trying to do if you want to get into the complex is put 14 pounds of sand in a 10 pound bag,” said Guy Workman, whose daughter attends Talent Unlimited High School in the Richman Complex. Widespread crowding is nothing new in District 2, and neither is criticism of Success Academy schools: The charge that it should find its own space has followed the network, which is run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, virtually wherever it has sought to open.
New York

City moves to close two charter schools, citing mismanagement

Department of Education announced today that it is moving to close two low-performing charter schools, including one whose network head earned nearly half a million dollars last year and is under investigation by the Attorney General. The city announced today it would close Williamsburg Charter High School. One of the schools, Peninsula Preparatory Academy, will close at the end of the year when its charter expires. The 346 students at the school, which has gotten four straight C's on its city progress reports, will be dispersed among other Far Rockaway elementary schools. "We have had some struggles but I think the school was definitely on a positive trajectory," said Ericka Wala, Peninsula Prep's principal. The department is taking an even more drastic step with the second school, Williamsburg Charter High School, and revoking its charter midway through the five-year term. Unless the school completely cleans up its management within 30 days, it will close at the end of the year and its students will have to apply to other high schools. In a letter sent to the chair of WCHS's board today, the head of the city's charter schools office, Recy Dunn, paints a picture of massive mismanagement and corruption. Most of the charges center on founder Eddie Calderon-Melendez, who earned $478,000 last year as the CEO of the Believe Charter Network, which has run Williamsburg and two other high schools. Citing financial and board improprieties, the city placed the school on probation in September. Chief among the terms of the probation was that the school's board would sever its relationship with Believe. It did so in November, begrudgingly, but then hired Calderon-Melendez to join the school's staff earlier this month, according to the letter, which said the school had met just one of 10 probation requirements. Now, state auditors and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman are investigating the school's relationship with Believe under Calderon-Melendez's leadership.
New York

Brooklyn charter school with checkered past put on probation

The Department of Education is giving a Brooklyn charter school with a history of trouble just weeks to fix its most flagrant violations. We wrote in April that Williamsburg Charter High School had failed to make rent after a sharp enrollment decline. Now, the city has placed the school on a one-year probation, saying it is "in material and substantial violation of its charter, and in serious violation of applicable laws and regulations." Those laws and regulations include ones governing management, finances, and the school's relationship with the Believe High Schools Network — a relationship that the city says the school entered into illegally and must terminate within six weeks. At least three of WCHS's six board members are employed by the Believe network or one of the other two schools it operates, according to the letter, sent by Recy Dunn, head of the DOE's Charter Schools Office, to the chair of WCHS's board. "Any decisions made by the Board in regards to WCHS’s relationship with the Network would not be valid as those three members would have to recuse themselves; with only three voting Board members remaining, a majority vote decision would not be possible," the letter states. Whether the board actually voted on the Believe relationship is not clear: The board met only four times last year, instead of the required 12. The letter also raises red flags about the school's budgeting, pointing out that the school's own reporting put current assets at about $509,000 and current liabilities — the amount for which it's on the hook — at nearly $5 million.