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Charter parents get audience, but not agreement, with NAACP

The president of the NAACP’s New York chapter kept her word to meet with angry charter school parents today — after 20 of them appeared at her Midtown office.

The parents traveled to president Hazel Dukes’ office this morning, four days after a large rally against the civil rights group’s involvement in a lawsuit that could negatively affect several charter schools.

A day before the rally, Dukes told GothamSchools, “Any parent that wants to meet with me, I will meet with them anywhere they want.” Since then, more than 2,000 parents have signed on to a letter asking for a meeting with Dukes, according to Kerri Lyon, a spokeswoman for the New York City Charter School Center.

But Ny Whitaker, whose child attends Harlem Success Academy, said she tried twice last week to schedule a meeting before telling an assistant that she would bring a group to Dukes’ office today. When the group arrived this morning, Dukes invited its members in for a conversation.

Dukes didn’t accede to the parents’ chief demand — that the NAACP withdraw from the lawsuit, which seeks to prevent 17 charter schools from opening, moving, or expanding. But parents in the meeting said Dukes signaled a willingness to engage them in dialogue.

“Dr. Dukes has invited charter parents to the table,” said Kathleen Kernizan, whose son attends Excellence Boys Charter School in Brooklyn. “The next steps are to keep open the dialogue. She has invited us to do so.” Both Kernizan and Whitaker spoke at last week’s rally.

“It was a great meeting. Thank you,” Dukes said before hanging up when I called her after the meeting.

The parents told me they would not give up on trying to quash the lawsuit. Next, they’ll reach out to state education officials as well as people who are plaintiffs in the suit, such as Councilwoman Letitia James, they said, and they also vowed to return to Dukes’ office on Friday, and again next week.

“We’re not going away,” said Valeria Babb, mother of a first-grader at Harlem Link Charter School.