Wednesday, January 26, 2011

***For Immediate Release*** "Stop the Squeeze!" Upper West Side and Harlem Communities Rally in Support of District 3 Schools and Against Success Charter Co-locations

For Immediate Release              
Contact:  Noah E Gotbaum, Community District Education Council 3 917 658 3213                                                           
January 26, 2011                                           
Christine Annechino, Community District Education Council 3 917 593 4797    


“Stop the Squeeze!” Rally Defends Sorely Needed Space, Resources for D3 Schools

(New York)  Hundreds of elected officials, parents, students, educators, and community leaders came from throughout District 3 and the City last night to support District 3 schools and rally against the proposed co-location of charter schools in public school spaces.  The rally, dubbed “Stop the Squeeze!” and organized by Community District Education Council 3, drew attention to the proposals to co-locate the Success Academy Charter School at the Brandeis High School building and to expand Harlem Success Academy 1 into PS149 and the Wadleigh Secondary buildings.

Eva Moskowitz’s Success Charter Network co-locations have been battling with and squeezing public school kids out of their buildings at PS149, PS241, PS123 and across the city and turning district school children into second-class citizens in their own buildings.  Now she and the DOE want to continue this separate and unequal system by co-locating their new Upper West Success Elementary School at the Brandeis High School Complex, and to expand Harlem Success 1 Middle School at PS149 and into Wadleigh Secondary.

Supporters of the rally and against the Success Charter co-locations included almost every District 3 elected official including Congress Members Jerald Nadler and Charles Rangel, State Senators Tom Duane and Bill Perkins, Assembly Members Daniel O’Donnell, Linda Rosenthal and Keith Wright, and City Council Members Gale Brewer, Inez Dickens, Robert Jackson and Melissa Mark-Viverito. The rally also drew the support of the Mid-Manhattan NAACP, 25 District 3 School Leadership teams and Parent Associations, as well as the unanimous endorsement of Community District Education Council 3 (CEC3) and of Community Board 7, which voted 40-0 against the co-location of Upper West Success in Brandeis.

United States Congressman Jerrold Nadler said, “The Department of Education’s proposal to locate the Upper West Side Success Academy on the Brandeis High School campus is clearly the result of poor educational planning and a failure to listen to the community’s needs.  The planned co-location will do nothing to address the pervasive overcrowding in our public schools, or to improve any schools that may be struggling.  Our goal is for all parents to have the option to send their children to an excellent public school.  I am proud to have supported the recent award of federal grant dollars to District 3 to build on the success of the district schools and improve the diversity and quality of schools within the district.  We should continue to focus our energies on supporting the growth and improvement of our traditional district schools. Diverting space and resources from the recently-established impressive high schools on the Brandeis campus is not an answer to the needs of District 3 parents.”

“This is not about whether one supports charter schools, but about the resources that all students and schools are given to succeed," said Congressman Charles Rangel. "The city has an obligation to ensure parents and their children that this co-location will not come at the expense of the current learning environment."

State Senator Tom Duane said, "I oppose the New York City Department of Education's (DOE) proposal to co-locate a Success Academy charter elementary school at the Louis D. Brandeis High School campus.  There are five wonderful high schools already co-located in this building, four of which are expected to remain there over the long-term.  It is important to note that these schools deserve the opportunity to grow.  I would also argue that there is still a need for another high school to serve students from the neighborhoods that previously fed into Brandeis High School, as well as those from the surrounding area.  Furthermore, I believe that co-locating elementary school students with those in their late teens is problematic.  DOE has scarce space and that space is best used to build on the success of our Community School District 3 schools and foster their growth and expansion.  I believe that, in general, and specifically in this case, a charter school should not take precedence over promising new traditional public schools.”
State Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal said, “At a time when School District 3 is grappling with overcrowding at all grade levels, it is irresponsible for the Department of Education (DOE) to propose reallocating seating capacity to an elementary charter school.  The DOE has shamefully denied the need for more seats, has concluded that no room for expansion exists and has warned that rezoning is the only acceptable means of addressing issues of capacity.  We simply cannot afford to give up precious space to this charter school, no matter how sterling its reputation, and slight our public schools even further.  The proposal to site a charter elementary school in the Brandeis High School building is inappropriate and untenable.

“As the Assembly Member representing the Upper West Side of Manhattan, it is my obligation to view this plan in the context of our community’s challenges and needs.  As we continue to work toward alleviating District 3 overcrowding, the installation of an Upper West Success school at this location would be counterproductive to this goal.  I am also deeply unnerved by the prospect of placing children as young as four years old alongside high school students as old as 18 or even 20.  This concept displays the poor judgment involved in choosing this site and poses obvious safety concerns in a school where all who enter must pass through metal detectors.”

State Assembly Member Daniel J. O’Donnell said, “The decision by the Department of Education to co-locate The Success Academy at Brandeis High School is deeply troubling.  Not only is this siting in violation of the intent and spirit of the law, as the community was not properly notified in advance, but it also raises serious concerns about allocation of resources and the availability of space for our public school children.

“If implemented, this co-location has the potential to interfere with the growth and success of the schools already thriving at the Brandeis complex.  DOE is obligated to give our public school students what they so richly deserve: careful planning that accounts for a district’s ever-changing needs, ensures adequate space for all, and avoids siting decisions that have the potential to divide families over valuable resources.  DOE has failed once again in this regard.”

New York City Council Member Gale A. Brewer said, “DOE, parents, and the school community successfully recreated Brandeis.  The students at our new high schools are striving and growing together in their shared space. We've worked very hard for years to achieve this, including major investment, new principals and teachers, and the unique Frank McCourt High School, a real top-notch addition to our great West Side schools.  An unprecedented $22 million dollars in City capital investment, and thousands of hours of work by DOE, my office, and the school and parent community has given these young adults a chance to grow minds and bodies in a renewed, diverse, and harmonious setting.  It's time to let our investment in these students, and this school, grow and prosper. It is not the time to shoehorn a large elementary school into the same building with four small high schools.”

New York City Council Member Inez E. Dickens said, “Due to the potential loss of academic/cultural enrichment programs in functional public schools, Council Member Inez E. Dickens has repeatedly opposed co-relocation plans mapped by DOE in partnership with Harlem Success Academy.  The Council Member feels that this co-location blueprint displaces students and denies them equitable access to science lab, computer lab and perhaps dance or art studio space.  Therefore, the students become disenfranchised.  The Council Member is not opposed to charter schools and works with other charter schools in her district.  Unfortunately, she cannot support the Harlem Success co-location blueprint model that is now being renamed the Upper West Success Charter.  This charter school model infringes upon existing functional school programs, and will be potentially exclusionary because all children cannot be accommodated under this charter school model.  Therefore, Council Member Dickens supports her colleague Gale Brewer who has always been a champion of a free, quality public education for all children.
District 3 Community Education Council President Noah Gotbaum said, “These co-locations undermine the very system the DOE is charged with running by pitting students, parents and schools against each other in the name of “competition” – a competition over space and other resources that District school children invariably lose.  These unwanted co-locations create separate and unequal schools within our public school buildings, and especially hurt our most vulnerable students.  At Brandeis they will undermine four growing high schools and create an unsustainable environment for all of our kids.  As the elected parent representatives of 17,000 kids in 32 schools across the Upper West Side and Manhattan, CEC3 calls on the DOE to reject the Brandeis, Wadleigh and 149 Success charter co-locations and instead focus on improving the schools and choices which educate all of our kids; our district schools.

Opposition to this proposed co-location has focused on several areas:
-  The capacity crunch being experienced in the District 3 elementary schools will be felt in our middle and High Schools schools very quickly.  The middle school and eventual high school needs are real and imminent. The proposed co-location of the Success Academy Charter Schools at Brandeis, Wadleigh and PS149 does nothing to take into account District 3‘s very own real needs and would exacerbate, not improve- as Success Charter claims - District 3 overcrowding;
-   The Brandeis complex has a target capacity of ~2150. Louis Brandeis High School is being phased out. In its last full year of operation it had over 2600 students.  It was, in fact, over capacity.  This shows that there was and is a great need for high school seats in District 3. Any school which comes into the building should provide much-needed high school seats for the district.  It should also be noted that the target capacity was calculated for a single school in which student movement was controlled by one organization and space was not shared.  This figure drops when multiple schools use the same space;

-  PS 149 and Wadleigh Secondary and Frederick Douglass Academy would have all plans for growth and recruitment curtailed, and programs cut as specialty art, science, culinary, and music/drama facilities would be turned back into classroom space to accommodate the charter.

-  Students on the Brandeis Campus can range in age from 14 to over 21.  It is inappropriate for 5 and 6 year old children to be sharing a space with high school age young adults;

-  The Brandeis Campus is a high school facility and as such is unsuited to accommodating small bodies. Expensive retrofitting that would be required would waste money in a time of very tight budgets;

Tara Rinaldo, 2nd Grade Teacher at PS149 said, “HSA does not have self contained Special Ed classrooms nor do they accept students who need those services.  Just because students in HSA have IEP's, that does not make them Special Ed.  We take and educate ALL students.  We all deserve the same quality education.”

Gay Zacerous, Speech Teacher at PS149 said, “The co-location of a charter school and a community school within same building, the community school having inferior facilities and reduced quality of services, has adverse psychological impact on our children and is 'separate' and 'unequal'.  This may very well be the civil rights issue of our time.”

Toya Carter, Pre K Teacher at PS149 said, "Due to the expansion of Harlem Success my Pre K class, which is given limited use of its own playground, does not get their ample time to work on their mandated gross motor skills. I ask this question, is it right to take away from one child to ensure another child's education."

Criticism of the Success Charter model includes charges that they force or encourage learning disabled and academically at risk children to leave the school to boost the school test scores.

"My son was accepted into HSA#3 Kindergarten class in August of 2008 through lottery selection,” said parent Karen Sprowal.  “After only days of attending I was asked to find another school for him due to his lack focus in class.  When I refused he was suspended for disruptive behavior and lack of academic focus at the age of 5!  It was truly a emotional taxing ordeal, and only after he asked me on our walk to school "is today the day HSA is going to fire me" that I transferred my son to P.S.75.”


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