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Queens Chronicle

IS 59 ready to battle city’s DOE — again

Parents, officials vow to thwart a last-minute Bloomberg co-location

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Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:19 am, Thu Oct 24, 2013.

In what seems to some to be a never-ending fight, parents of schoolchildren in IS 59 in Springfield Gardens are once again preparing to fend off the co-location of another school in their Ridgedale Street building.

This time the Department of Education is proposing to establish a Success Academy charter school in the building next September.

It would start out with kindergarten and first-grade classes with the goal of adding one grade per year until it is a K-8 school in the 2021-22 year. It would serve up to 810 students.

IS 59, with about 500 students, serves grades 6 through 8, and already is sharing space with more than 200 students from PS 176 until 2016-17, when 176 is projected to have its own building.

The school also temporarily housed — again over the objections of parents — the Eagle Academy charter before it moved out.

At a public hearing held at the school on Oct. 9, DOE officials got an earful from parents who made it clear they are ready to go to the barricades again.

“What is it about this building that the Department of Education wants it so much? asked Yvette Small of the Presidents Council of District 29.

According to the DOE’s impact report, Success Academy would not affect enrollment or programs at IS 59.

“If this proposal is approved ... [it] will provide District 29 students with an additional elementary school option, said the report, read by district Superintendent Lenon Murray.

Under the proposal, all students within District 29 would be allowed to enter the admission lottery for the new school.

The report stated — to howls of derisive laughter from the crowd of more than 150 — that DOE calculations find there is room for more than 500 additional students in the building.

It also stated that the 18 existing schools run by Success Academy — founded by former Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz — excel in terms of student performance.

But more than two dozen speakers at the hearing, including parents and civic and elected officials, were unimpressed.

Annette Brown of the IS 59 PTA was one of the many who scoffed at the idea that the school has all the space the DOE says it has.

She said there is no way to make a new school fit in with all students needing to use the same common spaces such as the cafeteria, gym and library.

“Some children will have to have lunch 10:30 a.m.,” she said. “McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s don’t start serving lunch until 11:30 a.m. What about that child who stays at school for programs until 6 p.m. having gone that long without a proper meal?”

Brown also pointed out that charters tend to receive money and new, modern equipment and amenities that she said would be better placed in existing schools.

“Our children don’t have instruments for their music program, and this new school will have everything a school could want,” she said. “This is not going to be a successful union.”

Others believe that charters, particularly the ones run by Successs Academy, inflate their academic performance by not admitting or forcing out students with academic or disciplinary problems.

“They cherry-pick their students,” one parent said. “Those numbers don’t impress me.”

Local officials decrying the decision included Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-Jamaica) and Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans).

The Department of Education, which will have a new chancellor and a new Panel for Educational Policy when Mayor Bloomberg leaves office in January, already has declined to put off votes on dozens of proposed co-locations until a new mayor and City Council are sworn in.

The current PEP, laden with Bloomberg appointees, is scheduled to vote on the co-locations on Oct. 30 — six days before Election Day.

Comrie and Scarborough accused the administration of not only stepping over parents and the community, but ignoring them altogether.

An already-incensed Comrie became absolutely livid at the idea of an outgoing, lame-duck panel making decisions that will impact the city five years or more down the road.

“Their term ends when mine does!” said the term-limited councilman. “They should delay the vote!”

While some parents called charters private schools, they are, under city and state regulations, New York City pubic schools, though permitted more leeway for experimentation and less constrained by teacher-labor union regulations.

Harry Hartfield, a spokesman for the DOE, said the concerns are groundless.

“A decade ago, we inherited a broken school system that, for decades, failed to graduate even half its students,” he said. “Since then we’ve delivered historic highs in graduation rates, lowered dropout rates by half, and given parents more school options than ever before in city history.”

He said the once-broken system has been transformed.

“Our strategy has worked, and with this new school, that progress will continue,” he said.

Parents and officials in the meantime are trying to get as many people in opposition as possible to attend the Oct. 30 meeting of the PEP, scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Prospect Heights Campus at 883 Classon Ave. in Brooklyn.

One of the last speakers of the night, Adrienne Felton, is a veteran of the Eagle Academy battles. She exchanged hellos with DOE officials who also worked on that effort.

“We beat you,” Felton said. “And we’re going to beat you again.”

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