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


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.