Friday, January 13, 2012

The Williamsburg Latino community fights back against Success charter expansion

In yesterday's State of the City, Mayor Bloomberg said he would encourage Eva Moskowitz' Success Academy charter chain and KIPP to accelerate their expansion.  He may have a fight on his hands. First, see the stickers being pasted all over the glossy recruiting ads in the Williamsburg subways and bus stops for her new charter, to be co-located in MS 50.  (thanks to GothamSchools for the photo to the right.)

According to many observers, Eva Moskowitz is recruiting almost exclusively in the northern, primarily white sections of Williamsburg.  (This is a practice she followed  with  the Upper West Success charter on the Upper West side, holding recruiting sessions in the Trump hi-rise condos and at the Jewish center, and producing thousands of glossy promotional flyers in English and almost none in Spanish -- despite the charter law which requires the recruitment of English language learners.)   

In Williamsburg, a new coalition, called the Southside Community Schools Coalition has emerged to fight the charter, and its openly racist tactics,  including long-time educational leaders and activists like Luis Garden Acosta, founder of El Puente,  Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, CM Diana Reyna, several local churches, and the District 14 Community Education Council.  An excerpt from their message is below; the full message is here.

Preamble to the SCSC

The Latino Community and all communities of Color are under attack throughout New York City. We are being displaced from our traditional neighborhoods at the rate of an endangered species.

City Policies are driving forward a city that, each day, is more polarized, more segregated by class, color, and ethnicity. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Williamsburg, in general, and the Southside of Williamsburg, specifically. The Southside, a community, that in the 1980’s was the most concentrated Latino neighborhood in New York City is now being “cleansed” of the Latino working class in favor of those not Latino or working class.

We must make clear that we will continue to and have always welcomed non-Latinos to our neighborhood. The Southside Community Schools Coalition (SCSC) is committed to creating a vibrant community for all. What we will never allow is a racist and classist inspired takeover of our schools – one that will raise, again, the ugly head of division in Williamsburg.

The New York City Department of Education’s proposals to both allow the Eva Moskowitz “Success School” into the Southside’s Middle School 50 as well as to impose the transformation of the Southside’s Roberto Clemente School (PS19) without community direction is an unethical, immoral policy that will only serve the eventual elimination of the Latino community from its longtime, iconic home of Los Sures (The Southside).

Eva Moskowitz’s corporation has never met with any Southside Community organization or any recognizable Southside leader to assess the needs of our community. Instead, she has blatantly canvassed, advertised and campaigned for the acceptance of her school in the Northside, creating a dangerous climate of potential polarization between Southside Latinos and Northside newcomers. She has invested in costly Madison Avenue-like advertisements but only in the L train, Bedford Avenue Station, ground zero of the newcomer movement. 

That the city has not prohibited these renegade, racist advertising campaigns or sought a court ordered injunction tostop Ms. Moskowitz’s flaunting of the rules governing the development of charter schools, exemplifies their complicity. Nowhere in their advertisements in the subway station or in their glossy hand-outs does it state, as it must, that the school is just a proposal. On the contrary, their tag line is; “A New Public School – Proven Record of Success – Easy to Apply Online”.

The SCSC does not want to imply that the Mayor is racist, nor that the NYC Department of Education is driven by anything other than the need to house Ms. Moskowitz’s school in the Southside. However, it is troubling that in a school system that is composed of well over 80% students of color, that the Department of Education would allow such disrespect to our community.
The impact of Eva Moskowitz’s School would be to undermine and destabilize the Southside’s Latino Community and its Middle School 50 in favor of the newcomer/non-Latino community. Again, we welcome Northside children to our schools, but our schools must remain characteristic of the communities in which they exist. They must be driven by our community, our vision of excellence, our moral sense of responsibility for all our children.

The entire, unfortunate effort to locate Ms. Moskowitz’s school in the Southside’s MS 50 is without educational merit. We do not need another elementary school. The NYC Department of Education’s own statements flatly declare that our elementary schools are underutilized. What we desperately need is a quality, A+ rated middle school. That is our community’s vision for MS 50.

The SCSC is committed to leading a plan to make all Williamsburg schools excellent learning and development centers, worthy of the needs and potential of our children, of all children.

         DEMANDS FOR PS 19:

      We demand that the SCSC be formally recognized as an advisory body for decisions regarding District 14 schools, particularly with respect to the development of PS 19.

·         We demand, with respect to the proposed transformation of PS 19, that the SCSC participate in the  decision-making on the hiring criteria of incoming school leadership; the development of new academic curricula and/or grant-funded programs; school outreach/recruitment and enrollment; monitoring of school resources (budgets, grants, etc.); and overall oversight of the school moving forward.

        We demand that the Department of Education reissue the RFP for the transformation of PS19 to expand the range of proposals for consideration. Additionally, as a recognized advisory body, that the SCSC be part of the review process.

        We demand that any transformation of PS19 stipulate that the name stays as is, “The Roberto Clemente School”.

        We demand the assurance that the magnet grant previously awarded to PS 19 is secured, and will be maintained as part of the development of the school.

        We demand that the new PS 19 School Leader be bilingual (English/Spanish) and culturally competent.

        We demand that the new PS 19 School Leader be experienced working with and creating effective programs for English Language Learners, specifically dual-language programs.

        We demand that the new PS 19 School Leader be skilled and experienced in networking with community organizations and resource development.

        We demand that the new PS 19 School Leader be experienced in progressive, accelerated academic approaches to address the holistic development needs of our young people.

        We demand that the transformation of PS 19 include the integration of a dual-language program.


        We demand that the SCSC be formally recognized as an advisory body for decisions regarding District 14 schools; particularly with respect to the proposed collocation at MS 50.

       We demand that the Department of Education reject the proposal to collocate a Success Charter School into the MS 50 building.

       We demand that the Department of Education reissue the RFP with an open, transparent process for a new school at MS 50 or for the expansion of MS 50 into a grade 6-12 school. Additionally, as a recognized advisory body, that the SCSC be part of the review process.

       We demand that any RFP resulting in a new school or school expansion, include a 1-year planning process before full implementation.

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