Charter founder says city stalls on space - Queens Chronicle: Queenswide

Charter founder says city stalls on space

by Michael Gannon, Editor | Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2019 10:30 am

The founder of Success Academy Charter Schools has told the Chronicle that the group’s one middle school in the Borough of Queens is nearing its capacity, and is accusing the city of dragging its feet in the effort to secure more classroom space for fifth- and sixth-grade students.

Eva Moskowitz, who founded Success Academy in 2006, made the assertion on Aug. 8 during a sitdown interview at the Chronicle’s offices.

She and Ann Powell, Success’ executive vice president for public affairs, said they first notified the city of the need for a second middle school site in 2017, but to date have not heard back despite what she said have been constant check-backs by Success Academy officials.

Moskowitz has accused Mayor de Blasio of wanting to force children back into zoned city schools by limiting Success’ space in the borough.

“Last year, the [Department of Education] told us they were looking for a permanent site but would need a year to find the space,” she said. “... Parents on the Upper West Side have school choice. Why can’t parents in Queens have a choice?”

Moskowitz said that while she now has four elementary schools in Queens, her only middle school is co-located within IS 59 in Springfield Gardens.

She said they had 590 students in the school last year, and this year will have to eliminate an art room and a science room to meet the demand, along with increasing class sizes.

“We have 2,000 students in Queens, and this year we had 3,500 applications for 500 seats,” Moskowitz said. “Without a new site, we’ll have to turn away 200 [Success Academy] students next year.”

During the interview Moskowitz acknowledged that Success is perfectly at liberty to secure its own space and have the city assist with rental coasts. But she also said the city’s own numbers show there to be multiple buildings in Southeast Queens with the capacity to house the 450 seats she is looking for.

The Department of Education, in response to an email from the Chronicle, acknowledged that it is aware of the situation, but declined to respond to a question on a possible timeline.

“We’re committed to serving all our students, and we have been in communication with Success Academy around their request for a second middle school site in Queens,” DOE spokeswoman Danielle Fislon said in an email.

“It’s important to engage with the community when considering any co-location proposal, and we look forward to hearing more from both charter and district school communities about this space request,” she added.

Moskowitz said Success schools admit children through a lottery system. Asked about critics’ claims that the school cherry-picks applicants to avoid special needs students, she said their schools average about 17 percent special needs as opposed to about 18 percent for city schools at large. She provided statistics saying their Queens students are about 87 percent African American and Hispanic, and about 70 percent from low-income families.