Contentious public hearings over new charter schools are nothing new on the Lower East Side. One such hearing was supposed to take place at P.S. 20 this evening. But hours beforehand, at around 6:30 last night, the city’s Department of Education (DOE) canceled the meeting.
This morning, a DOE spokesperson tells The Lo-Down the cancellation occurred because the applicant, Success Academy, had withdrawn its application for space in District 1. The controversial school network run by Eva Moskowitz won approval from the charter school committee of State University of New York’s board earlier this year for District 2, but then applied for a “non-material change” to site the school in District 1, which covers the Lower East Side. Local Council members, Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez, successfully pushed for a public hearing.
A spokesperson for Success Academy told us a short time ago that Moskowitz agreed to withdraw the application for space in District 1 and that the school network would not re-apply for two years. The decision does not, however, mean that Success Academy is withdrawing its application with SUNY for a school on the LES. It could still end up finding a location separate from a traditional public school building.
Last night, Council member Mendez and District 1’s Community Education Council put out a news advisory indicating they would go ahead ahead with a meeting anyway and also hold a press conference outside P.S. 2o at 5 o’clock tonight. The notice read, in part:
To date, Success Academy has not rescinded its request to change its application to School District 1… If elected officials do not receive said written notice before the scheduled press conference, community leaders will hold a forum to allow parents and community residents an opportunity to provide their comments.
In a separate email this morning, the CEC had more to say about the situation:
In yet another unaccountable scenario, the DOE has made a move to cancel the public hearing against Success Academy with less than 24 notice. Given how hard we had to push to obtain this hearing, given the way the switch from D2 to D1 was approved on tape at the Trustee meeting in October, given how the wrong notice of approval was posted on the SUNY CSI website, given how the D1 community has had no opportunity for input on the proposal or the school that will impact our community, this last minute cancellation adds to a narrative of complete disregard and utter lack of respect for the entire community.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Council member Chin notes that the chair of SUNY’s charter school committee, Joe Belluck, has promised the “non-material” change will not be decided on by the trustees without a public hearing. Chin, we’re told, remains committed to making sure the hearing takes place and continues to seek answers regarding Success Academy’s plans.
The DOE had not publicly identified a specific school in which to co-locate Success Academy on the Lower East Side. Tonight’s CEC/Rosie Mendez meeting will take place at 6 p.m. at P.S. 20, which is located at 166 Essex St.
UPDATE 2:29 p.m. Via Council member Chin’s office, here’s a letter from the SUNY Charter Institute to the NYC Dept. of Education confirming that the institute will only act on Success Academy’s “change request” after seeking “additional community input.”