City Revokes Williamsburg High School's Charter

A charter high school that opened in 2004 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, will close at the end of this school year because of governance and financial problems, city education officials announced on Tuesday evening.

The school, Williamsburg Charter High School, was the first of three schools in the Believe High School Network opened by Eddie Calderon-Melendez, the network's former chief operating officer. Two of those schools will close at the end of this year because of increasing debts, violation of the state charter school law, and all-but-absent leadership from the schools' boards of trustees.

On March 20, state education officials decided to close Believe Southside Charter High School in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, but the nearby Believe Northside Charter School will remain open.

After city officials reviewed Williamsburg Charter's financial information, they found the school was $5.3 million in debt, a figure that the school's leadership eventually agreed was correct. And although the school's leaders argued that they were taking steps to recruit new board members, Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm wrote in her recommendation that they had met with little success, an indication that perhaps there is little commitment to keeping the school open.

"Time and again, this school has failed to live up to the conditions we set when concerns arose over their management and finances," Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg said in a statement. "We hold charter schools to the highest standards -- and in a case like this, where a school has been given multiple opportunities but still failed to implement oversight and accountability, we need to take action. We will work with current students and their families to ensure they have access to a high quality high school next year."

Williamsburg Charter High School has about 900 students enrolled in grades 9 to 11, all of whom will have to apply for new high schools for next year. But at this point in the school year, these students have missed both rounds of the city's high school selections process, leaving city officials to match them to high schools where there are still open seats.