case closed

New York

Charter high school wins courtroom battle to remain open

 A nine-month effort by the Department of Education to shutter a troubled charter school ended today when a judge ruled in favor of keeping it open. The decision this morning came hours before the school, Williamsburg Charter High School, is scheduled to host its graduation ceremony, where 118 students will receive their diplomas. It will also mean that the nearly 900 students who remain at the school will not need to find a new one next fall. About 20 students left in recent months because of the uncertainty that loomed from the court case. "It's been a great day," said Joseph Cardarelli, a director at the school. "There were a lot of anxious parents, but it seems like a lot of  people stayed in there until the end." Kings County Supreme Court Judge Ellen Spodek wrote in her decision today that the process that the DOE's charter school office followed to revoke the the school's charter was "riddled with inconsistencies and lacks a certain level of transparency." Williamsburg Charter was placed on probation last September and given an ultimatum to sever ties with its founder, Eddie Calderone-Melendez, and the network he operated, or face closure. Calderone-Melendez had been under investigation for tax fraud since last spring and was indicted in April. The charter school office ruled that the school did not move fast enough to divorce itself from Calderone-Melendez and moved to revoke its charter in January. The school fought back in court and in the streets. It hired a lawyer from Syracuse to lead the case and organized protests in front of DOE headquarters. The school won an early court victory to hold its annual enrollment lottery for incoming ninth graders while the larger case was being decided.
New York

Judge dismisses suit against Cobble Hill Success Academy

Sabrina Tan, a lawyer for Advocates for Justice, describes the firm's suit over Cobble Hill Success Academy at a press conference in February. A judge has tossed out a parent lawsuit against a charter school set to open in Cobble Hill this fall, even as he agreed that the school could have done more to solicit community feedback. In March, the parents filed suit against the city and Eva Moskowitz, CEO of the Success Charter Academies network, charging that they circumvented state education laws when they abruptly changed plans for the school late last year. Brooklyn Success Academy 3 — now renamed Cobble Hill Success Academy — was originally approved for either District 13 or District 14, but the city revised its proposal in late October and announced the school would instead move into a District 15 building. The parents also argued that the charter network had not sufficiently consulted the local community before the school's charter was approved. Their suit presented the network's consultation efforts, which included gathering signatures of support and holding a handful of public meetings, as "feeble, bordering on a sham," according to today's ruling. The State Supreme Court justice, Peter Moulton, ruled that the school's move from District 13 to District 15 had not violated state law. And he rejected the claims that the Success network had not fulfilled the state's community consultation requirement — a requirement that he said is "weak" because it does not identify who should be consulted, suggest a strategy for soliciting opinion, or bar schools that register fierce opposition from receiving charters. "Petitioners are correct that Success Academy could have engaged in a more thorough-going canvas of the relevant neighborhoods in Brooklyn to surface concerns and opposition to BSA 3," Moulton ruled. "However, the statute does not require that charter applicants conduct such an exhaustive survey of support and opposition."
New York

Shuang Wen School inquiry reveals deep "dishonest behavior"

A parent stands in front of the Cherry Street entrance to the Lower East Side's Shuang Wen elementary school. A sprawling investigation into the leadership of a controversial dual-language school in Chinatown concluded that the school's principal had falsified attendance data and accepted money from a non-profit hired to administer after school language lessons. The Department of Education will move to fire Ling Ling Chou, who was removed from the school in September while as many as 16 different investigations were underway. According to the report, she frequently faked numbers when reporting information about the school to the city and the United States Department of Education, including student attendance records and the length of the school day. The report does not conflict with a different report released last year by the special commissioner of investigations, which found that Chou and other staffers committed multiple improprieties, but did not outright steal public money. "For years, Principal Chou engaged in dishonest behavior, unbeknownst to her students and school community," said Chancellor Dennis Walcott in a statement. "Principal Chou’s conduct has failed to meet the standard we set for our principals, and I am filing charges to terminate her employment.” Shuang Wen consistently boasts some of the strongest test scores in the city, but divisions between the staff and parents at the Lower East Side school have led to numerous allegations of and investigations into misconduct.