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As hearing begins, UFT and NAACP drop three schools from suit

A street fight preceded the courtroom fight today as supporters and opponents of a lawsuit to stop 22 school closures and 17 charter school co-locations held separate rallies before the suit’s first legal proceedings began.

About 50 supporters of the lawsuit gathered outside the building with signs that read “Separate and unequal” and “Thank you NAACP.” The suit’s opponents, mostly charter school advocates who have been agitating against the NAACP since shortly after the group filed the suit along with the city teachers union, had also called a rally to precede the hearing.

Geoff is on the scene at 60 Centre Street, the Manhattan State Supreme Court building where the hearing is taking place.

His first report is that lawyers for the UFT and NAACP started the day by removing three of the contested co-locations from the lawsuit. The charter schools involved are the same as those referenced (clumsily) in the press release — later retracted — that announced an agreement last week: Girls Preparatory Charter School, on the Lower East Side, and the two Promise Academy charter schools in Harlem.

The other two schools dropped from the lawsuit are run by the Harlem Children’s Zone, whose CEO, Geoffrey Canada, has been involved in talks to resolve the suit out of court.

One might think that a first agreement could augur more, but that’s not what city lawyers are arguing. They say that because the reason the three co-locations was removed from the lawsuit hasn’t been explained, there’s no evidence to suggest that amicable resolution is likely in the rest of the co-locations being contested.

UPDATE: Reached with news that Girls Prep had been dropped from the lawsuit this afternoon, the president of the Community Education Council for District 1, Lisa Donlan, said she was relieved.

“Everyone felt concerned that the large net that had been used had scooped up a co-location like ours that didn’t belong in it,” she said.

Donlan said the planned co-location between Girls Prep and East Side Community High School had been carefully negotiated within the community after the city’s bid for Girls Prep to share space with a different school was derailed by tensions last year, ultimately costing some Girls Prep students a month of classes. After the East Side Community High School home was named in the lawsuit alongside all other co-locations approved by the Panel for Educational Policy this spring, community members asked the UFT to revise, Donlan said.

“This is literally one that no one objected to,” she said. “This was a community-devised solution to a badly designed co-location from the year before.”

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