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East Harlem parents pre-emptively organize against charter school

Some East Harlem parents aren’t waiting to find out whether a charter school will move into their school building before organizing against the possibility.

Parents at the Manhattan East School for Arts and Academies recently got wind that the Department of Education was considering placing Harlem Success Academy 5, one of three new charters Eva Moskowitz plans to open next year, in their building. The plan would call for Manhattan East to move to another building across the street to create space for Moskowitz’s school.

The founding principal of Manhattan East, Jacqueline Ancess, said that the DOE did not tell the school that it could be moved; rather, the current principal and parents association head found out that a move was under consideration at an unrelated DOE meeting “by accident,” she said.

Ancess and the school’s parent association responded by sending out a letter yesterday asking parents and supporters to call the city’s information hotline today to ask the city not to relocate the school.

“Manhattan East is a very successful school,” the message urges parents to tell the city. “Moving Manhattan East from its home is unconscionable.”

DOE officials said school supporters’ outrage is premature. “We’re still in the process of looking for space for HSA 5 in District 4,” said DOE spokeswoman Ann Forte. “At this time, no decisions have been made.”

A DOE official said that while the building where Manhattan East is located had been under discussion as a potential location for the new HSA school but that it was not currently a likely choice.

The situation reflects an environment of heightened mistrust of the DOE among parents at many district schools in neighborhoods where charters are also expanding. Across the city, the DOE’s plans to place charter schools in buildings inside district school buildings frequently have been met with fierce resistance from parents at the district schools, who argue that their schools should not be required to give up space and resources for charter schools.

Ancess said that even if thoughts of moving the new HSA school into Manhattan East’s building are abandoned, the fact that the DOE would consider moving a successful district school to give space to a new charter demonstrated that the city is giving unfair preference to charters.

“It’s okay with them to consider moving Manhattan East, for a school that doesn’t exist yet,” she said. “That’s what is shocking to me.”

Here’s the letter that the former head of Manhattan East, Jacqueline Ancess, sent out to parents:

Dear Family and Friends, The middle school I started nearly 30 years ago is in trouble and I need you to help. Tomorrow (Wednesday) at 2 p.m., please call 311 and protest the plans of the NYC Department of Education to permit a charter school–Eva Moskowitz’s fifth Harlem Success Academy–from displacing Manhattan East from its home in the building on E. 99th Street. I suggest that you might tell the 311 operator the following: This is a complaint to the NYC Department of Education. I am strongly opposed to the Department of Education evicting Manhattan East from JHS 99 to make room for Eva Moscowitz’s charter school. Manhattan East is a very successful school. Moving Manhattan East from its home is unconscionable. Here is what is going on: In a secret deal between Moskowitz and the DOE, without any notification to the Manhattan East community, the stage has been set to eject the school from the home it has been in for over fifteen years. Manhattan East would be the first successful school that the DOE has tried to oust from its home in an effort to accommodate charter schools at the expense of public schools. Moskowitz, who makes close to $400,000 for managing three schools (more than even chancellor Klein), has made no effort to contact the Manhattan East principal or the PTA president. This is an unprecedented outrage and the DOE needs to hear your protest. Call tomorrow and let the DOE know that as a New Yorker and a friend of Manhattan East, you will not stand for their arrogant misuse of power. This is only one instance of an attack on the public school system by the very people who should be protecting and supporting it. Please pass this on to other friends of Manhattan East. Thank you. Jackie