Jeff Kaufman sent this about his school being invaded few days ago while I was away. The hearing is tomorrow, May 5, but we are doing a presentation on charter schools to an undergrad education class in Staten Island so I can't be there.
A proposed Charter School is trying to take the space occupied by the closing EBC/ENY High School for Public Service and Law. The following is a brief background of the building (K895) and the schools that have occupied it.
Back in the early 90’s the East Brooklyn Congregations (a consortium of Christian and Jewish religious organizations in East Brooklyn) sought to cause the BOE to provide smaller neighborhood high schools as an alternative to the larger and increasingly violent neighborhood high schools in East New York and Brownsville. While proposals languished in the Board the creation of a new school did not occur until a shooting at Jefferson High School.
EBC worked with the Board to open two schools for the area, one in East New York and one in Bushwick. The school were housed together for the first years at 1495 Herkimer Street which was renovated at considerable public expense. The building had been a sewing factory and had been abandoned. A lease was negotiated with the private landlord and has transferred private ownership until the present. The lease has been renewed every four years.
Both schools were originally part of the District 79 (the alternative high school district) and as the schools grew Bushwick found a building on Gates Avenue. They are still at that building.
EBC continued at 1495 Herkimer and was transferred to the Brooklyn High School District sometime in the early 2000’s. The school’s population ran between 500 and 800 students which were comprised of, primarily, students from the immediate area, many within walking distance of the school.
After a couple of years on and off the SINI list Klein announced, in December 2007 that EBC would be phased out by June 2011. Each year another grade was removed from the school and the space left vacant. Currently there are less than 30 students who regularly attend.
In May 2008 the new school, Aspirations High School, was announced to take over ¼ of the building in September 2008. Aspirations was planned to be a transfer high school (to serve over aged and under credited high school students). The first year was a struggle as I taught at EBC just down the hall from the new school. The entire staff was young and female with most being TFA and no prior education experience.
In June 2009 I was excessed from EBC and agreed to join the faculty at Aspirations.
While there has been some prior tension between the teachers, administration and the CBO (Child Welfare League) with a change in CBO leadership a better working relationship developed. Still the school suffers from low attendance, (just above 50% on average), low graduation and regents passage rates and a significant group that ages out of school before obtaining a diploma. The school received an F for its Progress Report.
Since the announcement of EBC’s phase-out a number of rumors have circulated about the school or program that would take their vacating space. While groups of people would tour the space there was nothing mentioned until I happened to notice on the DOE website that ROADS Charter School was being proposed for the space. This occurred in the middle of March 2011. The notice was dated March 3, 2011.
When I spoke to my principal about it he said that he was against siting a charter in our building but there was nothing that could be done.
The original notice on the web for the Joint Hearing was scheduled for April 14, 2011. Upon information and belief no notice, other than the web posting, was provided to anyone at Aspirations (except the principal). On April 15 an amended notice was published on the website and a paper copied and given to the students. No instruction concerning what was supposed to be done with the paper was ever given and most, if not all of the notices were thrown away. Additionally it was the day before the Spring recess and attendance was well below 50%. There is no function PTA nor SLT at Aspirations. The notices and amendments can be found on http://schools.nyc.gov/community/planning/changes/brooklyn/TransferK894
The UFT Chapter at Aspirations almost unanimously voted against the siting of the proposed Charter School.
ROADS Charter School was fast tracked toward Charter approval. The school is proposed to be a school for “disconnected youth” specializing in students released from incarceration and/or homeless. ROADS is cosponsored by District 79 and Cami Andersen, the superintendent of District 79. Anderson, just announced as the new Superintendent of Newark Schools, sat on the Charter’s School’s Board during its formation. It is not clear what her connection is currently to the school as she does not appear on the EIS list of board members.
It is extremely clear that 1495 Herkimer was chosen by the DOE and ROADS due to the expected lack of political opposition to the school. There is little doubt co-locating this school with a school consisting of a struggling at-risk population will cause great hardship to the current public school.
Disconnected youth should be integrated into their former neighborhood school, not segregated as proposed. Our experience at Community Prep, a public school based on this model should teach us that these schools do not work and harm the communities in which they are situated. Not only will the students at the proposed Charter school be at further risk but we can expect an increase of violence and gang activity in the building.