Monday, October 5, 2009

Girls Prep Charter Plays Bait and Switch

We've been reporting on the PAVE charter/PS 15 struggle in Red Hook. Today I stopped by the CAPE group table at the Atlantic Antic street fair in Brooklyn, where they were getting a great response calling on PAVE to adhere to their original agreement to stay at PS 15 only 2 years. (Check the CAPE blog for updates - CAPE'n the Atlantic Antic.)

Many of us view charters as a political wedge to undermine public schools. Girls Prep Charter, based at PS 188 on the lower east side may be a good school with dedicated people. But we have to examine charters as to how they function in the political context. If they use bait and switch schemes and manipulations to gain control over space in public schools, then they are working against the long-time public good. If that leads to a divided and balkanized system that is taken out of the hands of public management then we can’t just focus on whether they are “good” because they serve a small portion of the public.

Thinking ahead, is the goal to have 1500 schools under separate management using public money? Do we think that is a good thing? Especially since only urban school systems with their racial component are the ones affected, while the suburban schools will have few charters and function under public control?

A good discussion has been taking place at Gotham Schools over Girls Prep charter school. Ken Hirsh, a charter school financial backer (he also backs Gotham Schools) and Lisa Donlan, Chairperson of Community Education Council in District 1 had a rigorous back and forth. I have a lot of respect for Ken's passion about education despite the fact I disagree with him on most points. He brings a level of civility to the debate that I just cannot match. I tend to go along with Lisa on most issues and I extracted some of her comments focused on the bait and switch tactics of Girls Prep. Lisa provides the nitty gritty of many of the aspects of the public charter struggle, though I am leaving out her description of her struggle to get basic info from the charters in her district. I'll let her take over, but be sure to check the link to read what Ken and others wrote.

Comments by Lisa DonlanCheck Spelling

GPC admitted 3 classes of 5th graders his year, one year after they moved into PS 188.
GPC had been “incubating” in nearby PS 15 since its inception in 2005, and had long outgrown the space there, necessitating a move.

Despite the agreement between the two schools whereby GPC was not to ask PS 188 for additional space beyond the agreed upon joint plan, GPC hired a Middle School Principal and admitted 3 times as many students as they had room for.

GPC had to rescind the extra 50 invitations to keep to one class, which is all they had room for.
GPC also got the names of all of the enrolled students in the district in ATS and used that enrollment information to send out glossy post cards recruiting kids and their parents BY NAME: “Last Chance to Apply! Girls Prep is FREE, all girls, and a proven success…” in English and Spanish, thus breaking the other ground rule for moving in to 188- no predatory marketing or recruiting away of the 188 students.

The SUNY Charter Schools Institute in a notice pursuant to ed law 2857(1) gave notice that the Board of Regents approved the charter renewal application on Sept 16th, 2008 for:
Girls Preparatory Charter School Of New York: Located at 333 East 4th Street, 5th floor, New York, NY, NYC CSD1; charter renewal commencing March 23 2009, and terminating July 31, 2010: proposed final enrollment /grades served- 248 students/K-5.

SUNY Trustees approved the same on June 9, 2008
This renewal was received on March 9, 2008.

On September 17, 2009 SUNY Trustees announced that Girls Prep had applied for a 5 year charter renewal commencing on July 2, 2010, with a proposed 1st year enrollment/grades/served-268 students/K-5; proposed 5th year enrollment /grades served -525 students/K-8.

Interestingly, in the charter application renewal questions, GPC states that it:” plans to open a Middle School in August 2009… to serve grades K-8 at full capacity.

…at full capacity, during the 4th year of the second charter term Girls Prep will serve 437 students in grades K-8, including approximately 242 students in grades K-4 and 195 students in grades 5-8.”

Let’s hope they teach math better than they use it!

At the CEC One meeting, OPD agreed that the targeted space Girls Prep had requested was for 3 classes of 25 students each per grade for grades 5, 6, 7, 8th or for 300 seats, and handed out a “fact sheet” that stated they would serve 300 students in grades K-5 at capacity.
Anyone not getting this new math????

The issue is not whether or not the 57% of students out of district and the 43% in district students who attend GPC on the LES deserve 300 more seats to create a middle school.

The question is who will need to give up what in order to make those seats available to this privately managed charter that serves no ELL’s (in a district that averages over 12% ELL), while 8% of their students have IEPS requiring SETTS, in a district with the same 8% average of SETTS IEPs, plus additionally 15% on average of our district elementary students requiring the More Restrictive Environments of either CTT or Self Contained classes, classes that Girls Prep does not offer, while in middle schools the district average is 21% of students requiring CTT or self contained classrooms.

Will GPC take in thsoe students with IEPs requiring those settings if they do not offer them?
Will more high needs students be pushed into the remaining schools in the remaining real estate?
Is this the way we want to make decisions about serving children? What happened to Children First?
It is starting to look a lot like private management first, or maybe certain children first….

On the OPD chopping block are:

PS 20 (w/ostensibly 19 spare rooms according to OPD)
PS 184 (w/ supposedly 20 unused rooms)
JHS 56 (on paper has 30 rooms over capacity)
PS 188 (that has 11 extra rooms)

These numbers are based on the flawed blue book and principals use survey that fail to take into account real capacity and use, as they are based on unreal constructs that don’t “count” cluster rooms used for art, music, dance, theater, speech therapy, counseling, OT, PT, administrative offices ( there are more offices in school buildings housing one or more schools), etc.

JHS 56 for example houses 3 separate schools (2 MS, and one 6-12) which all have administrative offices; the NYC DoE’s NASA space center; as well as the District Office (with full time employees: the CEC AA, the DFA and the district superintendent’s temp worker); but these rooms can not be part of the “footprint” since they are unique and not formulaic.

The 3 schools in the JHS building serve 27, 30 and 36% special education students requiring CTT or self contained class, respectively. Two school surpass the district average for ELLs with 15% of students classified as ELL’s, and one school is a Title III school.
In fact at one of the middle schools only 21% of the population is not either ELL or Special Education designated.

How does the new governance law that requires local hearings and an impact statement (to be created by DoE) operate to take into account the kinds of students being served, how well they are being served and how best to use the limited space in public school buildings? What will be the value of “consulting” with the CEC or DLT in the case that the recommendations favored by the chancellor do not sway the elected local governing bodies? Keep your eye on cases like these to see how good the new governance laws are at providing transparency, accountability and community input and oversight to these thorny issues.

Lisa continues in another comment

The GPCharter folks were spinning/telling stories when they grabbed me after our CEC meeting to explain away the disconnect between the previous chartering info and the newest proposal.

Planning year snafu my…well, you know what!

I saw that: “ the school’s original charter application and charter originally granted authority to provide instruction in K through 5th grade.

The school’s decision planning year … the charter was amended in May 2004 and limited expansion to 4th grade.

I also learned that there have been several ”deviations from the design elements in the original charter:

From 8am to 5 pm to the current 8 am to 3 or 3:45 pm ( 3/4th grades)

Initiating Spanish instruction in 3rd grade instead of K

Increasing class size from 22 to 25

Reducing number of classes on each grade form 3 to 2

Reducing the school year form 200 to 190 days…”

Interestingly I learned that the school has been provided space at essentially no charge by the NYCDOE.

At PS 188 that translates into: 13 classrooms, 3 administrative offices, and shared use of the: auditorium, Library, Computer lab; Lunch room, Gymnasium, Yard provided at no coast by NYCDoE.


Anonymous said...

The Lower East Side does NOT need an all-girls Middle School! GPC never asked the people if they want that, they just tweak the facts and move ahead. Every girl in the Lower East Side has great choices to apply for Middle School!

Anonymous said...

Near by Elementary Schools are over 65% male, with large special education populations thanks to the slick ads sent to the homes of District 1 children.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for all you're doing for our kids in the REAL public schools. I've been reading your blog and the GEM blog lately and I'm angry. Why hasn't anyone told District 1 parents about what charter schools are really about. I'm a district 1 parent and my school is one of the schools that is on the chopping block for girls prep. I also know PS188 parents who are angry because they were kind enough and welcoming to girls prep and now they've been betrayed by them. We need you to come and speak to District 1 parents.
we need you to come to the CEC1 meeting tonight. This meeting must be videotaped because all girls prep is gonna do is lie, lie, lie. All parents in district 1 must know the truth about charter schools.