resistance

Call for ban on co-locations has charter school backers nervous

The city’s charter school sector is pushing back against a groundswell of support for a moratorium on the space-sharing arrangement that has allowed the schools to proliferate.

Their resistance is not unified in tone. Some charter school advocates are requesting that proponents of a moratorium reconsider and others are taking their fight to the street.

The Bloomberg administration has relied heavily on co-location, the practice of allowing one school to open in another school’s building, to open new schools. Its critics say the arrangement breeds unnecessary tension and takes resources away from existing schools.

Now, three of the Democratic candidates for mayor — Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, and former comptroller Bill Thompson — have all said they think Bloomberg should not be allowed to close or co-locate any schools in its last year. A bill proposed in the State Senate would bar school closures even into the next mayor’s term, and Assembly members are lining up to sponsor their own version of the bill.

Blocking co-locations and the school closures that often make space for them would be a serious blow to the city’s charter sector, which has flourished because the Bloomberg administration has offered more than 100 charter schools free space in district buildings. It would be difficult for new schools to open at the same pace if they had to find and pay for private space.

The threat has united independent charter schools and schools in management organizations, which are sometimes at odds, in the sector’s defense. On Wednesday, two dozen school leaders and advocates distributed a statement asking the mayoral candidates “to set aside the call for a moratorium on co-locations and show the kind of thoughtful leadership New York City needs.”

Several of the signatories handed out flyers to people attending the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators’ event featuring mayoral candidates on Wednesday evening, where the candidates later reiterated their support for a moratorium.

“I believe anyone who wants to lead the city is going to be a thoughtful person,” said Rafiq Kalam Id-Dinn, head of Brooklyn’s Teaching Firms of America Professional Preparatory Charter School. He said that if candidates surveyed city charter schools’ strengths, they should think, “Hmm, maybe we shouldn’t push pause.”

Some charter school operators are taking a more aggressive stance. Unlike representatives of the other major charter school networks in the city, Success Academy Charter Schools CEO Eva Moskowitz did not sign on to the sector’s letter. Instead, parents from her schools protested outside the three mayoral candidates’ offices this morning.

Outside Liu’s office, more than 100 parents from Success waved signs accusing the candidates of being pawns of UFT President Michael Mulgrew. The union has long opposed closures and co-locations, at times suing to stop the city from going through with them.

“We’re out here because we want co-location,” said Ali Aybakal, who has a child at Harlem Success Academy 4 in Harlem and three at New Heights Academy.

“Liu, Thompson, and De Blasio declared basically to destroy charter schools,” said Kelly Alday, an outspoken parent from Bronx Success Academy who is often a ringleader at the network’s protests. “They’re basically turning their backs on us.”

Moskowitz, who aims to open six new schools in public space this fall, has long represented the more radical wing of the charter movement, bringing busloads of parents to defend her network’s schools at public hearings and meetings where criticism is likely.  A former City Council education committee chair, she has also sought — and received — more space from the city than any other charter school operator, at times forcefully proposing space-sharing plans directly to the chancellor.

Now, she is taking an extra share of criticism about the practice of co-location.

“Another thing that has to change starting in January is that Eva Moskowitz cannot continue to have the run of the place,” de Blasio said during the mayoral debate, where Moskowitz was the only school leader named, to loud applause. “She was giving the orders and chancellors were bowing down and agreeing. That’s not acceptable.”

In a statement responding to this morning’s protests, Melinda Martinez, a parent at Cobble Hill School for International Studies, said, “The Bloomberg-era policy of ‘what Eva wants, Eva gets’ is at stake now, and only the mayoral election can stop her from continuing to hurt our students, because not everyone can be bought off.” Success Academy Cobble Hill moved into the school’s building this year.

Perhaps anticipating this year’s political rancor, many independent charter schools opted out of a rally to support the sector last year. “There was a sense that there is a political element to this, and people thought that demonstrations that looked like Eva’s demonstrations did more to divide than bridge,” Harvey Newman, who heads the Center for Educational Innovation’s charter support network, told GothamSchools at the time.

Charter school parents – who number over 100,000 and counting — could potentially be a significant voting bloc in the mayoral election. At an event to mark National School Choice Week this morning at Democracy Prep Charter School in Harlem, a parent asked Chancellor Dennis Walcott what families can do to support the sector. Walcott suggested holding a forum for mayoral candidates and giving them each a report card based on how much they favor charter schools.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.