Thursday, February 25, 2010

Eva Moskowitz has special access to Schools Chancellor Klein - and support others can only dream of

Juan Gonzalez - News
Thursday, February 25th 2010, 4:00 AM
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein often lauds a small group of Harlem
charter schools founded by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz.

But few New Yorkers are aware of the access Moskowitz has to the
chancellor or the special support he has bestowed on her program,
whose four schools enroll just 1,300 of the city's more than 1 million
public school students.

Since Moskowitz launched her first Harlem Success Academy in August
2006, Klein has attended at least 13 events for her schools, including
several fund-raisers and private meetings with her, 125 e-mails
between them show.

The e-mails, obtained by the Daily News under a Freedom of Information
request, provide a glimpse into the close relationship - one that
would make most principals green with envy.

They show that in addition to Klein's visits, Moskowitz:

- Secured the chancellor's help last year in landing a $1 million
donation from a private Los Angeles foundation.

- Got Klein to intervene on her behalf in clashes she had with his

- Boasted to him of organizing parent "armies" to advocate for Mayor
Bloomberg's educational policies - and of flooding politicians with
thousands of pro-charter school postcards.

The News requested e-mails pertaining to the efforts of Harlem Success
to get more space in school buildings. The space issue is contentious
in many city neighborhoods, and Moskowitz may be the best-known
advocate of more public space for charters.

The e-mails clearly show Moskowitz had Klein's ear on the issue, even
complaining to him about his aides.

"Dilly dalling [sic] bureaucrats don't want to confront principals,"
she wrote in June 2008. This was after a top school official refused
to allocate Harlem Success Academy 2 an additional classroom in East
Harlem's Public School 7.

"I still am short rooms and zoned school is getting more space than
charters," Moskowitz said. "Your people will say am sure i am wrong.
What they will say is simply not true."

"I've talked to John White [the official in charge of allocating
school space] who will call you," Klein wrote back.

A few days later, Moskowitz told Klein that White was not giving her
the space she wanted.

"Really could use your intervention," she wrote. "We need to quickly
and decisively distinguish the good guys from bad. And yes take away
resources from institutions that are harming children and give to
those who are truly putting children first."

Not long afterward, the problem was apparently solved. "Help on space
much appreciated," Moskowitz wrote.

Asked about her e-mails, Moskowitz said it is her job to advocate for
her schools.

"I don't just quietly accept what is dished out to our parents and
what I believe are unfair allocations of space that hurt my schools,"
she said.

At one point, she told Klein city Education Department policy kept her
from getting enough mailing lists of public school kids for a
marketing campaign for her charters.

"We need to be able to mail 10-12 times to elementary and pre-k
families" Moskowitz wrote.

Five days later, Michael Duffy, the head of Klein's charter school
division, wrote her:

"The Chancellor asked me [to] give you an update on where things stand
with getting mailing labels to you and other charter schools."

Duffy was trying to "overcome the obstacles" of "privacy laws," he
said, to make available all the labels Moskowitz wanted.

Klein spokesman David Cantor acknowledged the Moskowitz request led to
a change in policy to provide more mailing lists.

"But it didn't only have to do with Harlem Success," he said. "Several
charter schools were asking to be able to send mailings to families in
their districts."

In a Jan. 11, 2009, e-mail, Moskowitz outlined her plans to build an
advocacy network with other charter schools.

"What you are doing is so important," Klein responded. "Your charter
colleagues are miles behind."

Since August 2006, the chancellor has attended several parent meetings
at Harlem Success; two lottery drawings for its applicants; two poker
night fund-raisers for the network at a Manhattan W hotel; an auction
at Sotheby's of artwork by Harlem Success children, and several
private breakfast meetings with Moskowitz.

"Klein hasn't been to our school in more than five years," said one
principal of a high-achieving Manhattan public high school. "I've
never had breakfast with him."

"The chancellor meets with several principals, charter school leaders
and other N.Y.C. school operators just as often or more," Cantor said.

Cantor pointed to Geoffrey Canada, who operates two acclaimed Harlem
Children's Zone charter schools, and to Richard Kahan, who runs the
Urban Assembly network of public schools, as examples.

A spokesman for Harlem Children's Zone said Klein had visited its
schools "maybe two or three times in the past six years."

Kahan said his network, which has existed for more than a decade and
operates 22 schools, has had "maybe a dozen visits" from Klein.

The e-mails also show Klein appealed to Los Angeles billionaire Eli
Broad to fund Harlem Success, helping Moskowitz get $1 million from
Broad's foundation.

"Can't thank you enough for your support," she wrote Klein after
getting the money last year.

"We plan to open our last 3 in Harlem in august 2010 and then move to
Bronx," she added. "With 27 charters in Harlem [counting other
non-Harlem Success charter schools] we will have market share and will
have fundamentally changed the rules of the game."

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