Note: Gary Rubinstein writes about this issue on his blog as well.
About a month ago, teacher and blogger Gary Rubinstein sent me an email, asking if I knew that Success Fort Greene Middle School had closed, and asking me if I knew where to access their test scores and past enrollment. I sent him some data showing their declining enrollment, and then went on a search myself to try to find out more information about this school, but what I discovered was very confusing and contradictory.
It is true that Success Academy seems to have quietly closed their Success Academy Fort Greene MS last year, located at 700 Park Avenue in Brooklyn in D14, even though they were actively recruiting more students to the school as recently as last March, according to their Facebook page. According to their state report card as of 2022-2023, Fort Greene had a sharply declining population of 5th-8 graders.
But Success is still intent on expanding the number of its schools, despite a cap on charter schools. This year, they opened up a new elementary school in Sheepshead Bay HS complex at 3000 Avenue X, in Brooklyn.
Last year, a lawsuit was filed to block this charter co-location, focused primarily on the fact that the DOE's Educational Impact Statement did not even mention the new class size law, and instead its analysis that there was available space in the building for the co-location relied upon an assumption that current class sizes in the existing schools would persist forever, even though many of their classes were far above the levels mandated in the class size law. I wrote an affidavit in support of the lawsuit. The Judge ruled that this lawsuit should have been filed as an appeal to the Commissioner instead, and now the plaintiffs, including the UFT, intend to appeal his decision to the Appellate court.
But to go back to the journey I embarked on when looking into the mysterious disappearance of Success Fort Greene school:
- Strangely enough, the SED charter school directory still has Success Fort Greene open and located in D13, despite the fact that last year it was in D14 and is now closed anyway. See the Excel spreadsheet of the NYS Charter School Directory (As of October 17, 2023)
- On the DOE website, they also list Success Fort Greene still open, but instead of a middle school, they describe it as including grades K-1, and located at the Sheepshead Bay address in D22 at 3000 Avenue X in Brooklyn.
- The DOE charter report from December 2023 similarly lists Success Fort Greene as still open, but also located at the Sheepshead Bay address at 3000 Avenue X, Brooklyn. The spreadsheet shows it as enrolling mostly K and 1st graders; but also one 6th grader and one 8th grader – which is very peculiar, unless this is to maintain some sort of fiction that it is still partially a middle school.
- Its authorizer, the SUNY Charter center, also still lists Success Fort Greene as open, but sited at two different locations: first, at the now-closed address at 700 Park Ave., with both K-1 grades and 5th-8th grades and in D13. This is despite that its last location was in D14, and the school enrolled no K or 1st graders as far as I know, and is now closed.
Even more weirdly, under the same
heading of Success Fort Greene, SUNY also lists it as Success Sheepshead Bay in a subheading, located at the 3000 Avenue X address - and at both locations having the same principal, Shannon Beatty.
Clicking on the original proposal as listed at the bottom of the list above, one can see that Success Academy Fort Greene as originally approved by SUNY was for an elementary school in either District 2,4, 13, 16 or 17 ---to open in 2013-2014. No middle school is mentioned, and no school in either D14 where it was last year, or D22 where it is supposedly now.
Even more confusingly, I cannot find any authorization by SUNY or the Regents of a Success Academy Sheepshead Bay, after doing a search on their websites. However, in October 2023, SUNY authorized a revision to Success Fort Greene charter, to lower its enrollment at the address where it no longer existed by that point: at 700 Park Ave. Brooklyn.
This revision says the school was originally
chartered to serve both grades K and 5-8 and can now expand to a K-4
school but with a lower enrollment, to serve 126 students in K-1. It mentions no new Success Academy at Sheepshead Bay, even though that school had already opened in September, the previous month:
Success Academy Charter
School – Fort Greene is located at 700 Park Avenue, Brooklyn, New
York 11206 in CSD 14 and is chartered to serve 296 students in grades K and 5-8 for the 2023-
24 school year growing to serve 552 students in grades K-8 for the 2026-27 school year, the
final year of the current charter term. The school requests an enrollment decrease to serve
126 students in grades K-1 for the 2023-24 school year and 538 students in grades K-4 for the
2026-27 school year.
Now, if one takes a look at the Success Academy website instead, there is no longer any listing for Success Fort Greene, but it does list Success Sheepshead Bay , an elementary school with K-1 students at 3000 Avenue X in the Sheepshead Bay complex, which is far more accurate than the other fictional listings on the DOE, NYSED and SUNY websites.
This new elementary school, Success Academy Sheepshead Bay is also cited in their Federal replication grant application, as one of four new elementary schools that Success was planning to open this year with 180 seats.
So on its own website, and in order to get a funding through a federal grant, Success portrays this as a new elementary school. But to DOE, SED, and SUNY, its authorizer, it is a but a branch of an already defunct middle school.
What is the explanation for this confusing three-card monte game? I suspect that Success is trying to maintain the fiction to New York authorities that their new Success Academy elementary school in Sheepshead Bay is the very same school as their now-defunct Middle school more than seven miles away, because they are bumping up against the charter cap and do not want to use up one of their valuable slots– and SUNY is actively involved in helping them participate in this scam.