Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Garth Harries Email on Ross Charter

From: Harries Garth
To: Patrick Sullivan ; Klein Joel I.
Cc: Richard L. Menschel ; Mary Silver ; Lisa Donlan ; Grimm Kathleen ; Duffy Michael ; Guerrier Martine
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2008 9:05:00 AM
Subject: RE: D2 Resolution on Ross Charter School


Thanks for your email – we saw the D2 Presidents Council resolution yesterday, and have been trying to correct what are apparently crucial misunderstandings. A number of us have also been talking with CEC 2 representatives, to try to clarify. Following are the issues as I see them

a) Crowding in District 2: The Department and the SCA are aware of the need for seats in District 2 and have reviewed demographics…and we have discussed this several times with District 2 representatives. Given the demographics, we have increased the number of new seats for the district in our current Capital Plan from 1,890 to 3,150 seats. In addition, we've stated in the amendment to the Capital Plan that we anticipate increased need above our current projections in several districts, including District 2, which will be evaluated for the next Capital Plan. A draft of the next plan is scheduled to be released in November.

b) Physical City Site: in that context, we all agree that it is profoundly unfortunate to be losing the Physical City lease. This is an issue that we and the SCA have been focused on for some time, trying to preserve the lease. But the unfortunate fact is that the landlord will not renew on reasonable terms. Our preference, all else equal, would have been to replace the Physical City with a stronger school in the same building. But the fact of Manhattan real estate is that all else isn’t equal, and this developer has ambitions that don’t include our school site.

c) Ross siting at Physical City : given that reality, the Ross siting is an incubation, to take advantage of the remaining years on the lease and to allow Ross and us to continue to push for an appropriate site in D1. Ross is committed to serving the LES, and it is where both they and we want them to be.

d) Ross School Quality: it is absolutely true that last spring, Ross was a struggling school – as authorizers committed to school quality, through our Charter office we explicitly called that struggle out to ensure that the school took appropriate action. The oversight played out exactly the way that it should – the school has stabilized, and made substantial improvements. That progress is documented in the same place as the original report, and is evidenced by continued strong parental interest and support from the Lower East Side, around Manhattan , and the City. (As an aside, we have been frustrated by the various aspersions cast about the school, insofar as they cherry picked the original report, and not the more recent review noting the improvements.) Certainly, Ross has work to do to continue to improve, as we note in our more recent report – but so do all schools, and Ross has done a good job recovering from their first year difficulties.

e) Notification and Process: we announced our intention to temporarily site Ross at the Physical City to the CEC and the local electeds on the same day we informed the school, February 27th. In all such circumstances, we have been explicit that this is our proposal, but that we will hold a hearing before the decision is finalized – that hearing, as you know, is happening tonight. So the information has been publicly available for some time. My understanding from DOE staff is that there was even some brief discussion of the plan at a CEC meeting – discussion that was admittedly brief, given the fact of a later opportunity to discuss more fully.

Michael Duffy, our Senior Executive for Charter Schools, made the trek out to Queens to speak to Charter school issues on Monday night. It is unfortunate that the other items ran over, and I know he’s eager to talk about these issues.

I hope this helps.


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