By the end of tonight’s Panel for Educational Policy meeting, Eva Moskowitz’s new Success Academy charter school is virtually assured of having a home next fall in Brownstone Brooklyn. For another charter school that, unlike Moskowitz’s, had applied to open there, the future is less certain.
The charter school that the Department of Education has proposed siting in District 15 was originally authorized to open in nearby District 13 or District 14, but in an unusual move, the city altered the plan.
Meanwhile, the department has not yet proposed locations for two charter schools approved for District 15, and a founder of one of them says she isn’t optimistic that her school will open in the area.
The Brooklyn Urban Garden School, a mom-and-pop charter middle school founded by a group of parents and educators who live in District 15, applied for public space when its charter application was approved in August. But there were only two school buildings in the district with enough space for new schools and co-founder Susan Tenner said she doesn’t expect BUGS to be offered space in either of them.
As a result, she said she’s unsure if the school, which has an environmental theme, can afford to open for the 2012-2013 school year.
“We’re still shooting for August, but we’re kind of in a tough spot until we’ve signed a lease,” Tenner said.
One option the school might have: To open in District 13, where there is more available school space and fewer high-performing schools — and where Moskowitz originally proposed siting her school.
Tenner said she would consider relocating to cut costs but preferred to keep the school in District 15. Yet staying close to home could easily require BUGS to devote a significant portion of its budget to renting a private facility.
“We weren’t originally focused on getting DOE space, but there’s no way we can’t consider it,” Tenner said. “There’s a huge trade-off in paying $500,000 in rent.”
The switch has infuriated some community leaders and elected officials who say BUGS would fill a need in a district with many good elementary schools choices.
“In contrast to Success Charter — who applied for a charter in Districts 13 and 14, and did not do any outreach in District 15 during that process — the Brooklyn Urban Garden School did extensive outreach in District 15,” said City Councilman Brad Lander, who represents District 15 schools. “As a result, their proposal reflects community needs and priorities.”
On the eve of the PEP’s vote on the Success Charter co-location, Moskowitz announced that more than 4,000 Cobble Hill residents had signed a petition supporting the school. Moskowitz already runs nine schools, which post high test scores, and is set to open two others in addition to the Cobble Hill school in 2012.
Jim Devor, president of the Community Education Council, charged that Moskowitz was able to jump the line for space in the area because of her political connections at the DOE. A series of emails made public in 2010 showed that she frequently emailed with then-Chancellor Joel Klein and other officials about finding space for her schools, among other issues.
“It’s very clear that Moskowitz has friends in very high places,” Devor said.
Another charter school authorized for District 15, a transfer high school named New Dawn, also has not been offered public space.