• October 22, 2019
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Queens Chronicle

Success: Ball’s in de Blasio’s court

Mayor’s Office still mum on charter middle school site as thousands rally

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Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:25 pm, Thu Oct 10, 2019.

If Mayor de Blasio has plans for the location of a new Queens-based middle school for the Success Academy charter school organization he is keeping them a guarded secret a week after thousands of Queens parents and students rallied in St. Albans demanding action from City Hall.

The gloves in the long-running battle between de Blasio and charter schools — and most specifically Success founder Eva Moskowitz — officially came off in Roy Wilkins Park on Sept. 26.

Thousands of Success Academy parents and students from Queens came on foot, by mass transit and via coach buses to call on the city to honor a commitment for a Success middle school.

Parents and school officials say the administration has been promising a building for two years and has yet to deliver.

Success has five schools in Queens with 2,200 students. But supporters say without new space for a middle school before next fall, more than 200 fourth-graders in Queens schools will have to either trek to another borough to remain in the Success system or be returned to district schools.

Just about everyone present was wearing an orange T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Kids Over Politics.”

Moskowitz, both addressing the crowd and in a brief interview with the Chronicle afterward, was as subtle as a sledgehammer.

“Parents shouldn’t have to rally — taking a half-day off from work — to get their children a good, quality, free public education,” she said. “Mayor de Blasio promised us a middle school. He has let us down.

“The buildings are there. This is just politics.”

But Moskowitz did say after two years she began hearing some signs of movement — but only after advance word of Thursday’s rally.

“It’s hard to hide a rally of 4,000 people,” she told the crowd. “Now they’re saying they have space. You scare them.”

Moskowitz told the Chronicle afterward that she has only heard of a possible break secondhand through media reports.

“They say they have a building, but they won’t tell us,” she said. “It’s not a lack of buildings. It’s a lack of political will.”

De Blasio administration officials have not responded to requests for comment, though in the past they have told the Chronicle that state regulations allow Success and other charters to choose their own space and then apply to the city for assistance with rent.

Moskowitz added that not just any building will do, explaining it needs a cafeteria, gym and other facilities for programs for arts, music and other disciplines.

She said it also must be in a location accessible to students and their families.

“Queens is a big borough,” she said.

She said her schools succeed because they focus on the whole student rather than just rote instruction of the three Rs, offering music, the arts, soccer and other things that many regular public schools in the city would consider luxuries.

“We are the largest employer of chess teachers in the country,” she said.

Success employees who as well are parents spoke during the rally, which included dance and musical performances by students.

“If you are an NYC public school parent, you know how rare it is to find a school that both you and your child love,” said Pershemia Milliard, a Success Academy Far Rockaway parent. “That’s what we’ve found at Success. My husband and I are so worried — we will be heartbroken if our son has to leave.”

Jamaal Salah said his daughter has found academic success, friendships and more at her Success school.

“I don’t want to lose that because of politics,” he said.

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