Uncharted: Charter school network seethes, public school supporters cheer as city nixes Bronx, Queens co-location proposals

Courtesy of Melissa Khan/UFT.

NYC’s largest charter school network won’t be expanding into several more Queens and Bronx locations, for now.

After facing heated opposition, the city’s Department of Education put the kibosh on proposals for three, new Success Academy co-locations in Districts 28 and 29 in Queens and in District 11 in the Bronx. 

Schools Chancellor David Banks announced on Monday: “After hearing from community members throughout this entire process that the proposals would create significant challenges for the new schools and the existing co-located schools, the Success Academy proposals have been removed from this week’s PEP agenda. We are committed to continue to work with Success Academies to find suitable facilities for their new schools.”

The PEP had the proposals scheduled for a vote on Tuesday, but the the city’s education department squashed the agenda items on Monday. 

“After borough-wide advocacy from school community members, advocates, and the people that represent us, DOE listened to us and pulled all Success proposals,” said Geneal Chacon, Bronx Borough President Appointee of the city’s Panel of Educational Policy.

Success Academy currently has 20,000 enrolled students across their K-12 network. There are 30 elementary schools, 16 middle schools, and 3 high schools, according to Success Academy.

There are four proposed co-locations for elementary schools for the 2023-24 school year, one of which was approved in Sheepshead Bay. The three co-locations that were cancelled were: 

  • A new Success Academy Charter elementary school co-located with M.S. 72 Catherine & Count Basie, Redwood Middle School, and P.S. 993Q inside the M.S. 72 building in Rochdale, Queens

  • A new Success Academy Charter elementary school co-located with Queens Preparatory Academy, Excelsior Preparatory High School, George Washington Carver High School for the Sciences, and Preparatory Academy for Writers: A College Board School in Springfield Gardens, Queens. 

  • A new Success Academy Charter elementary school co-located with the North Bronx School of Empowerment and Leaders of Tomorrow in Williamsbridge, Bronx

Co-location isn’t new in New York City. In fact, it’s the norm: Most public schools, including charters, are co-located, which just means they share a building. While each school has their own classrooms and hallways, common spaces like gymnasiums and libraries are shared.

In a letter sent to Success Academy Families on Tuesday, Success Academy Founder Eva Moskowitz wrote: “The Adams administration suddenly canceled all three of our proposed co-locations in Queens and the Bronx. This is unacceptable. We simply cannot allow politicians and the UFT to block opportunities for children in high-need areas. This decision has far-reaching implications — the new middle schools and high schools we need are also at risk. Thousands of families whose children are in desperate need of better educational options are now stranded. We will not let the Adams administration abandon them.”

Moskowitz thanked the roughly 750 family members who supported the expansion proposals, as well as pointed to the charter network’s petition for the Queens co-location proposal, which had garnered more than 10,000 signatures. Success Academy urged the community to support its proposal to utilize “dozens of excess classrooms that could accommodate hundreds of additional students.”

“We are confident everyone involved will work together for a solution that benefits families and doesn’t let precious school space go to waste,” said James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center.

Protesting charter school growth

Those who opposed the co-location proposals gathered testimonies and resolutions from multiple districts, including Districts 28 and 29, and stakeholders, including principals, School Leadership Teams, Community Education Councils, and PEP members, opposing the Queens proposals. The testimonies pointed to high attendance from community members, numbering in the hundreds at each meeting, who were against the Success Academy co-locations.

Students at the Bronx protest on Jan. 19 expressed disagreement with sharing the campus because of the lack of existing space. “I think they should have their own building,” said Naijai Todd, a 6th-grade student at Leaders of Tomorrow.

The United Federation of Teachers organized a recent protest on Jan. 19 at the M.S. 113 Richard R. Green, which shares the campus where the new Success Academy school was being proposed. UFT President Michael Mulgrew penned letters to PEP Chairperson Angela Green late last week.

Special needs students at the M.S. 72 campus in Queens currently fold their gym classes inside a locker room because the building is fully used, according to Mulgrew. He called the proposed Bronx co-location proposal “inappropriate” because the new school would intrude on existing common spaces like the dance studio, library, cafeteria, and gymnasium.  

“We also doubt the need for charter expansions,” Mulgrew said. “Much of Success Academies’ “success” comes from the fact that the chain has a tradition of discouraging the enrollment of the neediest students, along with high rates of student attrition, particularly of children who struggle with academic or behavior issues.”

Protest against Success Academy co-location expansion at the Richard R. Green School Campus in The Bronx on Jan. 19, 2023. Courtesy of Melissa Khan/UFT.
Protest against Success Academy co-location expansion at the Richard R. Green School Campus in The Bronx on Jan. 19, 2023. Courtesy of Melissa Khan/UFT.

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