BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
It was not a Successful meeting.
As mandated by State law, the Dept. of Education held a public hearing Tuesday night regarding new Success Academy charter schools proposed for Queens. The meeting was held at PS/IS 128 in Middle Village and hosted by Community Education Council 24.
Three new Success Academy charters are proposed for Districts 24, 28 and 30, which span western and central Queens.
Speakers at the hearing, almost all of whom had backgrounds in education as teachers, administrators or PTA leaders, overwhelmingly expressed frustration and disappointment with the lack of active representation from Success Academy.
A Success Academy representative took notes at the hearing, but did not present plans for the new schools or answer questions.
“Most people think that this hearing is a sham,” Deborah Alexander, a member of CEC 30, said.
“What they’re going to say is that they did public outreach. This is public outreach,” Alexander continued.
CEC 24 vice president Peter Vercessi said that for him, the evening felt like an episode of “Seinfeld.”
“It’s a show about nothing,” Vercessi said. “We’re commenting on something we know nothing about.”
“The purpose of this meeting is to gather comments from the community…There is significant information available about SA. This is one of many hearings,” Success Academy public affairs director Ann Powell said.
Councilman and Education Committee chair Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) also spoke at the meeting, reiterating some concerns he raised earlier this summer when the Education Committee asked the SUNY Board of Trustees to halt authorization of new charter schools.
These concerns included admissions practices and attrition at Success Academy schools and profits earned by charter CEO Eva Moskowitz.
Absent dialogue with Success Academy, attendees took the microphone to share their mostly unanimous worries about the three new schools.
In the arresting timbre of seasoned classroom teachers, many described their experiences with overcrowding and concerns about bringing Success Academy into overburdened neighborhoods.
“It’s like walking through Grand Central Station in my building,” one elementary school teacher said.
UFT District 24 representative Rosemary Parker said, “we have trailers that are falling apart. We have annexes on top of annexes…And then now you want to try and co-locate in one of our schools? Because there’s no space.”
Success Academy has not announced where they plan to put the new charters. A proposal to share space with a public school would require another public hearing, according to the Dept. of Education.
Throughout the hearing, many speakers stated that they do not universally oppose charter schools, but instead take issue specifically with the Success Academy network and their proposal.
One attendee relayed a positive experience with Success Academy. Maspeth resident Charlie Vavruska, whose teenage daughter attended elementary and middle school in D24, said he met several Harlem Success Academy families at a policy meeting.
The parents were pleased with the education their children were getting, and “[their children] all seemed like they enjoyed learning and wanted to go to school,” Vavruska said. “I think that’s something good.”
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.