The co-location situation

Moskowitz and charter allies prepare to take their public fight statewide

In sharp contrast to the collaborative strategy drawn up last week by some charter school leaders, Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz and her allies are preparing for a public battle as they anticipate unfavorable decisions from the de Blasio administration.

The fight includes a newly unveiled public relations campaign, a quickly evolving lobbying strategy, and preparation for potential legal action. While the past few months of protests and rallies have focused on influencing City Hall, the new efforts (and a rally next Tuesday) will target state lawmakers.

“It has become clear that we must turn to Albany for the leadership to save our schools and protect our scholars’ right to a meaningful, high-quality education,” Moskowitz told the board members of her network’s 22 schools this morning in an email obtained by Chalkbeat.

On their minds is the status of dozens of co-location plans, many of which include new charter schools, that were approved last year. Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to review each of those proposals and decisions are expected to be released soon.

But Moskowitz is already assuming it won’t be good news for at least some of the 10 schools that Success had gotten approval to open next year. If the lobbying tactics don’t work, she said, she will sue.

“Despite our repeated efforts to reach out to this administration, we expect to hear announcements in the next two weeks that a few of our approved schools will not be allowed to open or grow,” Moskowitz said in the email. “As soon as these rollbacks/reversals are announced, we will notify you and plan to take the appropriate legal action.”

The nonprofit advocacy organization Families for Excellent Schools, which works closely with parents of Success and other charter schools, also announced today that it is paying for a series of multi-million dollar broadcast commercials.

FES is also organizing a large rally in Albany next week with the aim of convincing state lawmakers to offer more support for charter schools. Organizers said they expect 2,000 parents and advocates to attend.

Success Academy, as it has done in the past, will bring some of its 22-school network’s 6,700 students. “Buses will be loaded by grade, and we will teach lessons in Civics while on the road,” Moskowitz said in the email.

This week’s developments come just days after Moskowitz and other charter leaders met with Chancellor Carmen Fariña, but learned nothing about de Blasio’s plans for next year’s co-locations.

Moskowitz is now taking a much different tone than the leaders of 27 other charter schools, who said ahead of the meeting that they wanted to forge a working relationship with de Blasio and Fariña. That group is mostly made up of independent charter schools, some of which are unionized, that have partnerships with community-based organizations.

This is just the latest clash between Moskowitz and de Blasio, who have been at odds on education since their days in the City Council. Their interests have collided since de Blasio won the mayoral election after pledging to “stop” the Success network, which opened in 2006 and thrived under the Bloomberg administration.

While students in Success schools regularly outscore both charter and district schools on state tests, de Blasio has repeatedly raised questions about whether Success enrolls as many low-performing and high-need students as nearby district schools. Other critics have said that some charter schools, including Success, don’t do a good enough job “back filling” empty seats with new students.

Amid de Blasio’s criticism, the rally is another sign that charter school supporters now believe Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature are their most important allies. Recent campaign filings show that Cuomo’s reelection campaign has received nearly $800,000 from Success board members and other charter school funders.

The decisions about next year’s co-location plans are in de Blasio’s and Fariña’s hands. But Bill Phillips, president of the Northeast Charter Schools Association, said there are several ways that legislative action could help charter schools, starting with extra funding in the budget, which will be negotiated over the next month.  

“Conversations are going on that look at all the possible ways to make sure that charters continue to flourish and that the 90,000 kids they serve continue to have a choice of a great public school,” Phillips said.
Here’s Moskowitz’s full email:

Board members,

I want to update you and share news of decisive action we are taking to protect our schools. As you know from our meetings and the press clips we have shared, the mayor continues to play politics with our scholars’ futures. This is unacceptable. Despite our repeated efforts to reach out to this administration, we expect to hear announcements in the next two weeks that a few of our approved schools will not be allowed to open or grow. This would be tragic, unfair, and we believe, illegal. As soon as those rollbacks/reversals are announced, we will notify you and plan to take the appropriate legal action. Read today’s editorial in the New York Post, “Opting for Failure.” 

It has become clear that we must turn to Albany for the leadership to save our schools and protect our scholars’ right to a meaningful, high-quality education. On Tuesday, March 4, Success Academy will be joining with charter parents across the city for a PARENT RALLY IN ALBANY.  

Even though our schools will be closed for the rally, we plan to take Success Academy on the road! Buses will be loaded by grade, and we will teach lessons in Civics while on the road. The march and rally at the Capitol will start around mid-day. Parents, teachers, and community leaders will speak and we will deliver letters to our elected officials. It will be a critical moment for Success Academy.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Participate. Come to the rally! Email Kathleen (REDACTED) if you are able to attend.

Stay informed. Join me for an early morning call this Friday, February 28 at 7:30 am. I can answer any questions you may have about the rollbacks, the rally, and other advocacy and communications efforts. Look out for a calendar invite.

Spread the word. Families for Excellent Schools (FES) has launched a new advocacy campaign at www.ChartersWork.org. They will be airing this ad in support of NYC charters and educational choice, starting today. Please share it widely, using #ChartersWork.

Thank you for your leadership and support.

Warmly,

Eva

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.