Parents in Limbo Over Lawsuit Against UWS Charter School

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pratt, fire, painting, art student, Brooklyn The charred remains of Pratt Institute's Main Building (Colby Hamilton/WNYC)

A lawsuit aimed at stopping a charter school from opening inside an Upper West Side high school has thrown scores of families into limbo.

Daniella Ballou-Aares has a 4-1/2-year-old daughter who is supposed to start kindergarten this fall at the new Success Academy charter at Brandeis High. She said she didn't apply to other neighborhood schools and doesn't know where her child will go if the charter is prevented from opening.

"The top schools in the district have waiting lists, and if you're not in the zone for them there's no chance," she said.

She didn't want her daughter attending her local school in Morningside Heights, PS 165. The school earned a D for student achievement on its last report card.

Almost 200 kindergartners and first-graders were admitted to the Success Academy Charter School, which is part of a high-profile network of charters run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz. The school recruited heavily and attracted 700 applicants, according to a spokeswoman. A rally to support the charter is planned for Tuesday.

But a group of Upper West Side parents claimed the charter would take classroom space, a kitchen and a dance studio away from the five small high schools sharing the Brandeis campus. The original Brandeis High School is in the process of being phased-out for low performance, which is why the Department of Education said there's plenty of space in the building to open a new charter.

Opponents, however, say there isn't as much space in the building as the DOE claims.

Lisa Steglich, whose son attends the Frank McCourt high school in the Brandeis complex, is one of the parents who sued to stop the charter.  "We believe that the allocation of space is not equal," she says. "Kindergarteners, elementary school kids will have much more space allotted to them than high school kids."

They also argue that it would be dangerous to have elementary students going to school in the same building as high school students.

The plan to site the charter in Brandeis High was approved in early February by the Panel for Educational Policy. The opponents are seeking to have a judge block the charter from opening on the grounds that the DOE didn't provide proper community notification of its plans as required by state law.

The department declined to comment on ongoing litigation.


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Comments [6]


In response to "ANDREW SMITH".... I assume your child is already in a school but what about those still looking?? Let's see.. I have 2 children and right now I can't even register them for 1st grade at PS 87 (which I am zoned for) because LAST YEAR, those parents who were waitlisted for kindergarten and didn't get in) now get first priority. Okay, still with me? Other than sending my kids to a private school (which by the way will cost $25,000 to $35,000 per year, PER CHILD) or moving away from the city, what other option do i have? Why is it viewed that charter schools will turn our children into "testing machines"? SOME, but not all, upper west side parents cater to their children's every whim.. so is a little hard work for your child going to scar him or her? Are you kidding me?These are the same parents who can't say no to their kid and their kids grow up to be obnoxious and self deserving. Is a little bit more homework going to traumatize a child??Would you rather have your kid stuck in a public school system where not only the kids get lost in getting a little attention but the class are overcrowded to the rim and certain teachers who are lousy can't even be fired because of unions protecting them? So you want your kids to just "play all day"? Who says that kids in charter schools don't have fun while learning? You make it seem as if it's an "marine boot camp". My children were in a very prestigious private school before, and you know what?? They didn't learn anything EXCEPT how to fingerpaint! I say let the charter school open.

Apr. 27 2011 10:01 AM
Andrew Smith from UWS

The progress reports are meaningless and are not a gauge on the day to day happenings in schools. They are based on one test. How many of us bombed the SAT's? Does this mean we are not smart? Does it mean our schools FAILED us. Give me a break...

There are great schools in D3, including 165, 145 and 149. Visit the schools---all the naysayers will eat crow.

I can't wait to see what the long term effects on children will be as many charters are only successful in turning happy children into testing machines and phasing out painting and play for lessons in test preparation. Most likely 2nd graders will soon have ulcers from worry and fear of failure... So sad...

Perhaps HSA, SCN or whatever their PR firm is calling Harlem Success in D3 is right by creating a school just for these types of parents. These unhealthy philosophies are not wanted or welcomed in "real" public schools.

Apr. 26 2011 04:39 PM
molly gordy from Upper West Side

As a public school parent, former teacher and member of Community Board 7, I applaud the creation of Success Academy and welcome it in principle to the Upper West Side. However, I must stress that the siting as is endangers small children. It is negligent and inappropriate to place elementary school children in the same space as students from five high schools. There is no way to guarantee their safety and they will be plunged into an environment that they should not witness, much less experience, for many years.

Apr. 26 2011 02:25 PM
Elizabeth Kellner from Manhattan

Ms. Ballou-Ares is a graduate of Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School of Government. She works as an international development consultant. I find it shocking that a parent of her educational and professional accomplishments applied to only one school, especially since the vehement community opposition to Success's efforts to co-locate in various schools has been quite "open and notorious" since last October. Late last January Ms. Ballou-Ares contacted my local Democratic club to criticize our position after we unanimously passed a resolution opposing charter co-location. That resolution followed a November public panel on public school reform, publication of the resolution in our newsletter and a vote at the January meeting. As far as I know, Ms. Ballou-Ares is not a member and has never attended our meetings. I wish parents like her would become involved in their local schools, especially those which are struggling. She certainly has all the resources to provide her child with a fabulously enriched home environment.

Apr. 26 2011 09:22 AM

Harlem Success Academy has done the same thing at several schools in Harlem. Only strong parent associations have been able to stop them. They took space from the Opportunity Charter School on 113th street, which forced overcrowding in that school.

Apr. 25 2011 07:22 PM
Anni from Upper West Side

As Ms. Fertig I hope is aware, the facts and subtleties of this situation have been discussed by the community (and available to the media) for many months. After a thorough review, Community Board 7, District 3 PA/PTAs, the Community Education Council and EVERY local elected official was against putting Success into this high school building.The parents at those high schools can show Ms. Fertig exactly which special rooms would be vulnerable if dedicated high school space were turned over to, and renovated for, kindergarten kids. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were already spent fixing this building up for HS use. It is only now that political pressure and back room deals are giving Success any access to it at all. The quote from the mom, Ms. Ballou-Aares, comes straight from Success' PR materials; she had many District options besides Upper West Success - including existing Success branches - it is a shame if she opted not to apply to them (though I would urge her to look again at PS165).

Apr. 25 2011 07:13 PM

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