BROOKLYN DAILY EAGLE: Cobble Hill Parents Sue To Block Success Academy

By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

COBBLE HILL – A group of parents in Brooklyn’s District 15 filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging former Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz’s plans to co-locate one of her Success Academy charter schools in a Cobble Hill school building.

The complex at 184 Baltic St. near Court Street presently houses three public schools: Brooklyn School for Global Studies, School for International Studies and P.S. 368 for special education children.

At a raucous and heavily policed meeting in December, the Mayor’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) voted to approve the co-location. The decision was met with catcalls and cries of “Shame!” from the sign-waving crowd.

According to the Department of Education (DOE), once the charter school is functioning at its full capacity, the building will be operating at 108 percent of its building utilization capacity.

Not all of the nine Success Academy charter schools have a track record, but those that do generally do well on standardized tests.

Charter Granted for Districts 13 or 14

According to a statement by the plaintiffs, who are being represented by the public interest law firm Advocates for Justice, the lawsuit challenges the legitimacy of the plan to open the school in District 15. The SUNY Board of Trustees, which grants the charters allowing charter schools to open, authorized the Success Academy to open a school in either District 13 or District 14, not in District 15, where the building (called K293) is located.

Arthur Z. Schwartz, the lead lawyer on the case, said, “This fight is not a fight about charter schools. It is about charter schools living by the rules. And we believe that the state legislature intended charter schools to be rooted in local communities, and that they be interactive with those communities in developing their programs. That is why the law requires that charters be issued in specific school districts.

“Brooklyn Success 3, with the support of the Department of Education and, unfortunately, the SUNY Trustees, is ignoring that rule. They are trying to set up in a district which is not in their charter, without appropriate community input, and, in fact, in the face of enormous antipathy. We don’t think that the courts will allow it.”

Success Academy said it would target “at-risk” children prior to receiving its charter, but since then has changed its focus to more affluent – and higher achieving – children in Brownstone Brooklyn. Affluent neighborhoods have been flooded with colorful brochures, brownstone homes have received mailings, and bus stops in Brooklyn Heights carry Success Academy advertising.

Jackie Johnson, a parent at P.S. 32, said in an e-mailed statement, “The Success Charter Network has only reached out to middle- and upper-middle-class families in Bococa, and she [Eva Moskowitz] has openly stated that her purpose is to give middle-class families more choices.”

The schools presently in the building, Johnson said, already “serve the needy.”

CEC-15 Troubled by ‘Bait and Switch’

Community Education District 15 (CEC-15) has not yet joined in the lawsuit – but hasn’t ruled it out, said Jim Devor, president of CEC-15. Devor said that since he had only “a very brief opportunity” to review an early draft of the suit, he couldn’t comment on its particulars.

“At the same time, we share the Petitioners’ opposition to the co-location of Brooklyn Success Academy 3 in the K293 building. In particular, we are especially troubled by the ‘bait and switch’ of chartering the school in Districts 13 and/or 14 with a self described mission of targeting ‘at risk children’ and then locating the school in Brownstone Brooklyn and limiting its recruitment to ‘middle class’ families.

“Accordingly, we do not rule out our members eventually joining the lawsuit or even initiating our own.”

DOE’s Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg said in November that enrollment at the new Success Academy would ultimately increase to somewhere between 500 and 640 students ranging from kindergarten to fourth grade. A planned fifth will not fit into the building.

Moskowitz, who heads nine charter schools, fought off a lawsuit in 2011 before she successfully opened Upper West Success in Manhattan.

http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/cobble-hill-parents-sue-block-success-academy

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GOTHAM SCHOOLS: For second year in a row, a new Moskowitz school is being sued

FROM GOTHAM SCHOOLS:

For second year in a row, a new Moskowitz school is being sued

by Geoff Decker, at 6:40 pm

Backed by a law firm that has battled the Department of Education in court repeatedly over the past year, a group of Cobble Hill parents announced today that they are suing to stop Eva Moskowitz’s Brooklyn Success Academy 3 from moving into their neighborhood.

Fifteen public school parents signed onto the suit, which Advocates for Justice said it would be filing today.

The suit claims the city and Moskowitz circumvented state education laws when they abruptly changed plans for the school late last year. BSA 3 was originally approved for either District 13 or District 14, but the city revised its proposal in late October and announced the school would instead share a building with two high schools and a special needs elementary school in District 15.

Opposition to the plan quickly mounted and reached a climax when protesters clashed with Moskowitz at a meeting she hosted for prospective parents in November. The city’s Panel for Educational Policy approved the co-location plan two weeks later.

It’s the second time in as many years that a Success school has been the subject of a lawsuit from the surrounding community. Last April,parents on the Upper West Side filed suit against the city’s plan to site a Success school on the Brandeis campus, charging that the network was not serving the needy student population that was written into its charter. The suit was dismissed just weeks before the school was slated to open.

Advocates for Justice was not involved in that suit, but it has been an active litigant against the DOE over the last year. The group sued over the botched parent leader election proceedings last spring and a case over collecting costs from co-located charter schools is still making its way through the courts.

The latest lawsuit seeks to challenge the legality of the co-location plan based on at least two provisions in the state’s 2010 charter law. The lawsuit alleges that Moskowitz failed to revise her charter application when the city changed its plans to site the school in a new district. The suit also claims that Moskowitz’s original application met a requirement for community input in districts 13 and 14 but not in District 15, where the school is set to open.

“If they had followed the rules and bothered to ask parents and the community in our building and in District 15 for input, this co-location would not be happening next year,” said Colleen Mingo, a parent leader at the School for International Studies, one of the schools in the Baltic Street building where BSA 3 is slated to open.

In a statement, Success spokeswoman Jenny Sedlis said more parents had already submitted applications for the Cobble Hill school than it would be able to accommodate. She dismissed the lawsuit and press conference — which was organized by New York Communities for Change, the successor to the union-backed nonprofit ACORN — as being about the “politics of education.”

“It’s unfortunate that a few adults intent on protecting the status quo would sue to sacrifice the possibility of a brighter education and future for hundreds of children, and we will fight this lawsuit vigorously to ensure that doesn’t happen,” Sedlis said.

http://gothamschools.org/2012/02/08/for-second-year-in-a-row-a-new-moskowitz-school-is-being-sued/

Brooklyn Parents, Education Advocates Take Legal Action Against Proposed Charter School

By: NY1 News

Parents and education advocates on Wednesday announced a lawsuit over a controversial charter school in Cobble Hill.

They say the SUNY Board of Trustees did not authorize the Brooklyn Success Academy to open in a building that already houses three schools.

The suit names the charter school’s trustees, the Department of Education and Success Charter Schools’ CEO, Eva Moskowitz.

Parents say having four schools share one building will have a negative impact.

“Makes me so furious to think that whatever Eva wants, Eva gets, and what happens is that our children just get pushed to the side, shunted to a terrible overcrowding situation,” said one parent.

“This school, in its present incarnation, serves the needy. Bringing a charter school in here to co-locate, taking up a third of the classrooms, sabotages that effort,” said another.

A spokesperson for the Success Academy Charter Schools says there is overwhelming demand for the school from families in the district, adding, “It’s unfortunate that a few adults intent on protecting the status quo would sue to sacrifice the possibility of a brighter education and future for hundreds of children.”

The Department of Education says it does not comment on possible litigation.

http://www.ny1.com/content/news_beats/education/155672/brooklyn-parents–education-advocates-take-legal-action-against-proposed-charter-school

SOUTH BROOKLYN POST – Breaking News: Lawsuit Against Charter Schools

By Lisa M. Collins
February 8, 2012

At a press conference this morning, parents and advocates announced a lawsuit that aims to prevent Success Academy charter school from moving into the School of Global Studies/School of International Studies on Court Street between Baltic and Douglass.

Parents at the press conference said they didn’t understand why their high school children should have to suffer larger class sizes and reduced access to the gymnasium and other issues caused by the influx of 200 or so kindergartners and first-graders beginning this September.

“My son should not lose out on valuable space and opportunities, just because the Success Charter Network does not play by the rules,” said Colleen Mingo, a parent at the School for International Studies.

Parents of kids in the NEST program at Carroll Gardens’ PS 32, a special and successful DOE program for kids with autism, are also highly concerned, as there is a small middle-school/high-school program in the Court and Baltic school building for kids with autism, and kids with severe retardation. The concern of current parents and teachers at 148 Baltic is that the three DOE schools currently in the building will get pushed out by the new public charter school, which was approved at the location for grades K-4 and has said it hopes to expand to grade 8.

The charter school was approved for the Baltic street location by the DOE in December, and by the State University of New York Charter Institute in January. Here’s an in-depth piece we did recently on the school: http://southbrooklynpost.com/2011/12/success-academy-charter-cobble-hll/. But of course there are many opponents to charters schools, including Diane Ravitch, a national educational advocate, who says they’re an attempt to privatize our school system.

More on the lawsuit to come, stay tuned!

Update:  http://southbrooklynpost.com/2012/02/lawsuit-against-charter-school/

THE BROOKLYN PAPER: Parents sue to keep 'Success' charter out of Cobble Hill

FROM THE BROOKLYN PAPER:

Parents sue to keep ‘Success’ charter out of Cobble Hill

By Natalie O’Neill
The Brooklyn Paper

A politically connected charter school broke state law by switching school districts to get space in wealthy Cobble Hill rather than less desirable neighborhoods, according to the angry parents behind a bombshell lawsuit.

Furious moms and dads from two public middle schools and high schools are demanding that former Manhattan Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz abandon her plans to open a new grade school in their building on Baltic and Court streets, claiming in the suit that her mini-education empire the Success Charter Network “unlawfully circumvented” state education rules to open in their community.

“They’re not playing by the rules,” said Coleen Mingo, whose son attends the School for International Studies, which shares space in the school building with the Brooklyn School for Global Studies. “They’ve left us no other choice but to sue.”

The State University of New York approved Moskowitz’s plan to “open, operate and maintain” a new charter school in Districts 13 or 14, which include Downtown, Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Prospect Heights, and part of Park Slope — but not Cobble Hill, which is in District 15.

The city signed off on Moskowitz’s plan, but opponents say that approval is moot because the state never granted “Brooklyn Success Academy 3” permission to open in their neighborhood.

“It’s an injustice,” said Cobble Hill mom Jacqueline Johnson, who is one of more than two dozen charter school opponents filing the lawsuit. “This is an instance of stealing from the poor to give to the rich.

In order to switch school districts, Success Charter Network must submit a revised proposal that gives District 15 “45 days notice” and provides “an analysis of community support,” according to the lawsuit.

The legal action comes after dozens of furious parents and teachers stormed a Department of Education hearing to protest Moskowitz’s charter school in December, saying it would snatch facilities such as gym and cafeteria space from existing students and overcrowd the building.

A spokesman for the Department of Education, which is also named in the suit, declined to comment, citing a policy about pending litigation. But a representative from Success Charter Network defended the school, saying there’s plenty of support for it in Cobble Hill.There’s already a waiting list of families who want to attend the charter school, said Jenny Sedlis a director with Success Charter Network.

“It’s unfortunate that a few adults intent on protecting the status quo would sue to sacrifice the possibility of a brighter education and future for hundreds of children,” Sedlis said in a statement. “We will fight this lawsuit vigorously.”

Reach reporter Natalie O’Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at             (718) 260-4505      .

http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/35/6/dtg_chartersued_2012_02_10_bk.html

NEW YORK TIMES: Cobble Hill Parents Sue to Block Success Academy

FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES – SCHOOLBOOK: First Bell

Cobble Hill Parents Sue to Block Success Academy

Feb. 9, 2012, 8:27 a.m.

By Mary Ann Giordano

Eva S. Moskowitz and her Success Academy charter schools are in the news on Thursday, again as the target of a lawsuit to try to stop her from establishing another school, this time in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

The education news Web site Gotham Schools reports that Advocates for Justice, which has had a portfolio of cases against the Department of Education, is representing 15 public school parents in the lawsuit, which the organization said would be filed on Wednesday. Gotham said the news conference to announce the suit was organized by Alliance for Quality Education, an advocacy group backed by unions.

Of the suit to block the establishment of Success Academy 3, Gotham Schools writes:

The suit claims the city and Moskowitz circumvented state education laws when they abruptly changed plans for the school late last year. BSA 3 was originally approved for either District 13 or District 14, but the city revised its proposal in late October and announced the school would instead share a building with two high schools and a special needs elementary school in District 15.

Last year parents from the Upper West Side also sued to block Ms. Moskowitz, a former city councilwoman, from establishing a Success Academy on the Brandeis Educational Campus. The suit was dismissed shortly before the school opened last August.

A Success Academy spokeswoman, Jenny Sedlis, said in a statement to Gotham Schools that the suit was the result of the “politics of education.”

“It’s unfortunate that a few adults intent on protecting the status quo would sue to sacrifice the possibility of a brighter education and future for hundreds of children, and we will fight this lawsuit vigorously to ensure that doesn’t happen,” Sedlis said.

She also said that Success Academy 3, which has been heavily promoted in the neighborhood, with ads and other marketing, already has applications from more students than it can accommodate — a claim that a commenter to the Gotham post questioned dismissively.

Gotham Schools’s Rise & Shine daily post has a more complete roundup of what’s in the news.

Much of the news on Wednesday was related to what is to happen on Thursday.

What could be a marathon meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Brooklyn Technical High School, 29 Fort Greene Place at DeKalb Avenue. On the agenda: the long-anticipated vote on closing or shrinking schools that the Department of Education deemed failing.

Two of the schools were, at the last minute, taken off the chopping block — Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Harlem, which will retain its middle grades, and Knowledge and Power Preparatory Academy VII in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.

The Education Department withdrew those schools because of faith that its principals will be able to turn things around.

The meeting on Thursday is expected to attract a large crowd of critics, and a demonstration is being planned by the United Federation of Teachers outside Brooklyn Tech before the meeting.

Those who would like to speak at the meeting are advised to arrive early. Sign-up begins at 5:30 p.m.

SchoolBook will be reporting throughout the meeting through its blog and on Twitter. Expect the meeting to last until the wee hours of the morning.

Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn will deliver a State of the City address on Thursday that is expected to focus in a big way on children and families. She will call for mandatory kindergarten instruction in the city, so that no child arrives in first grade without ever having attended school. The speech will be at noon, in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

And lawyers representing suspended teachers who are suing the Department of Education for being kept too long in the now-defunct rubber rooms, or reassignment centers, say arguments on the case will be heard on Thursday at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit at the Federal Courthouse in Foley Square. According to a news release:

The case, originally filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in June 2008, was dismissed by District Court Judge Victor Marrero on November 15, 2011 pursuant to a Report and Recommendation by Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck issued August 23, 2011.

The District Court ruled that the appellants, tenured New York City Public School teachers Michael Ebewo, Joann Hart, Julianne Polito, Thomasina Robinson, and Brandi Scheiner failed to state any cause of action for deprivation of their constitutional right to a prompt hearing after being sent to a Rubber Room, for any claims of employment discrimination, and for their being retaliated against for exercising their First Amendment Right to speak out against their principal’s illegally falsifying student grade and attendance records to dramatically improve their performance. The defendants and appellees named in the lawsuit are the New York City Department of Education, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Chancellor Joel Klein, the New York State Education Department, Richard Mills and David M. Steiner, the State Commissioners of Education, and Deborah A. Marriott, Manager of the State’s Teacher Tenure Hearing Unit.

Mary Ann Giordano is the editor of SchoolBook. Follow her on Twitter @magiorNYT.

http://www.nytimes.com/schoolbook/2012/02/09/cobble-hill-parents-sue-to-block-success-academy-3/