Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Hudson Yards Success charter parents to Eva Moskowitz: The school "broke our children’s spirit and erased their self confidence in less than 3 weeks".

Ben Chapman of the Daily News reported yesterday that a group of parents whose children attend a new Hudson Yards middle school in the Success Academy charter network is protesting the rigid and abusive disciplinary methods of the network.  The school opened this year and enrolls about 200 students in grades 5 and 6, to be expanded to 480 students through eighth grade in future years.

The school is sited in a high-rise building on the far West Side of Manhattan.  The space also houses a Success charter elementary school and the Success Academy Education Institute, established to train teachers from throughout the country in the Success techniques.  The two schools in the building are supposed to serve as "lab schools" for the Institute. The commercial space in the mixed use tower was acquired for $68 million by Success in December 2016.  

Harlem Success Middle School students
The full letter from Hudson Yard parents to Eva Moskowitz, the Success CEO, is reprinted below, and describes how the principal and faculty at the school "broke our children’s spirit and erased their self confidence in less than 3 weeks." Many of the specific practices outlined below have been reported by parents at other Success charter schools.

From: Hudson Yards Parents
Date: Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 8:25 AM
Subject: Concerns regarding Hudson Yards
Dear Eva and SA Board of Trustees,

We are a large group of parents from Hudson Yards Middle School who are outraged by Principal Russell’s policies and treatment of our children.

Eva Moskowitz and family crashing a Success protest last year
Last week we met with Principal Russell to voice our concerns and these are the issues and specific incidents that were discussed:

HYSA faculty broke our children’s spirit and erased their self confidence in less than 3 weeks.
Our children who once loved the SA, who were proud of being a part of a great school, rallied in Albany and other events, now simply no longer want to go to school.

Some of our children are getting physically sick, experiencing meltdowns, vomiting, having nightmares and/or having sleepless nights and are unable to concentrate etc. Some of our children have even requested to be homeschooled although they had been award winners and popular last year.

Intimidation and Detention of the scholars: Since school started most of the scholars were detained at least once for reasons that can hardly justify such an extreme measure. Examples:

•  Not locking their hands
•  Not completing homework that was confusing, in some cases assignments not even given to them in the first place
•  For unintentionally and/or accidentally breaking wind or burping in the classroom
•  On October 2, 2017 approximately 50% of the school was detained
•  Some parents were informed about the detention 1 hour before it took place

Teaching style and methodologies:

•  Inattentive and careless: teachers are not actually teaching, but acting similar to traffic policemen (directing traffic and giving tickets). They consistently give misleading instructions without explanations, references or textbooks; we, the parents are helpless. Some instructions that were recently given were grammatically incorrect and could not even be completed
•  Overwhelmed staff: there are multiple documented examples of teachers who appeared so stressed that parents could not get a coherent answer to simple Yes or No questions
•  Vindictive: scholars were told they “need to stop whining to their parents”.

After spending many hours struggling with the Chromebook, a family sent an email to the teacher and tech leader expressing frustration. The following morning as if in retaliation for complaining, the teacher confiscated the Chromebook and told the scholar "You lost your Chromebook privileges" and now you have to work on paper. Teachers stop at nothing to shame, publicly humiliate and embarrass the scholars

•  Negligent: advisor is not even aware of the services scholars with IEPs are supposed to get, although the IEP was discussed with them.

Above mentioned issues are mostly generic, however 2 personal stories from Thursday, October 5, 2017 night were particularly disturbing:

1. A terminally ill mother was trying her best to acclimate her daughter to the Hudson Yards Middle School community to be her second home. The future may turn out to be just like that. Unfortunately, the scholar’s grandfather passed away shortly after school started and the mother provided the school with her precise travel plans for the funeral. As the scholar’s grandfather was lowered into the ground, the mother received a phone call from her teacher but instead of condolences and support, this teacher demanded speaking about uncompleted homework.

2. A devoted mother expressed her concerns about the school in her email to her advisory group, CCing Principal Russell. Immediately after her email was received, Principal Russell phoned her attempting to scare her from sending such mass emails. The mother refused to be bullied in such manner and ended the call. Principal Russell kept calling her repeatedly. It seems that controlling information was more urgent to him than addressing feedback.


Some parents were able to have what appeared to be a productive conversation with Principal Russell but not much has changed.
Some parents NEVER got a chance to talk to Principal Russell, after repeatedly asking to do so.
Some parents feel intimidated by Principal Russell for speaking up and conferring with other parents.
Teachers at HYMS have not yet  provided families with their classmates parent’s contacts, unlike what other SA schools did at the beginning of the academic year.
Having a playdate or a study group to help scholars to adjust to their new environment could have been very beneficial, however Principal Russell prefered all communications to be undisclosed so we were not privy to any requests and discussions. We as parents want to teach our children to engage in open and productive discussions and not be driven by fear to do so.


Staff demonstrates ZERO awareness and concern for what they are causing families with their disturbing their end of school-day pickup plans.
The staff do not care or understand that: having to leave work unexpectedly can cause somebody to lose their job.
Parents who have children in multiple schools simply cannot pick up one child without creating unsafe and emotionally stressful situations for any of their children.
To have a 10 year old child standing on the street waiting to be picked up, while parents are  fighting traffic is extremely dangerous. The school’s location makes it a perfect spot to abduct a child and disappear into Lincoln tunnel in less than a minute.
There is a homeless shelter located just across a street from the school, housing single men. Individuals who stay in this shelter have to be out by 9am every day and are not allowed back in before 4:30pm; these hours coincide with our children’s school day.

I hope you understand that our only objective here is to create an enjoyable and productive school environment for our children and not war against the SA network. It would be a loss to everyone if somebody were to use this as a factor in not providing SA additional space for its Middle Schools.
I hope you will choose to act quickly and rectify the situation for everyone’s benefit and avoid yet another public scandal as there is evidence for all written above.

We are not signing our names at this point to prevent retaliation; Principal Russell knows only some of us by name and many parents were afraid to be seen at the meeting fearing retaliation.

Our feeling is that Principal Russell’s one year of experience managing Cobble Hill 5th grade (Middle School that since then was discontinued) may not have sufficiently prepared him for jump starting a new Middle School. At this point in time there is so much bad blood between the parents and the principal, a new jump start is a necessity for this school to succeed.

We must have an experienced leader, an educator who can motivate and unify the scholars as opposed to terrifying them and destroying their self confidence.

We want a school for our children where they cannot only thrive but blossom into successful and productive adults.



Anonymous said...

The "scholars" in this so-called school are in fact little more than commodities to be exploited by SA's Taylorist "factory school" business model. The sooner that SA parents understand this reality, the sooner the hideous child abuse by SA can be terminated. I have not heard of a single other school that conscripts parents and students for political demonstrations and forces them to sacrifice their first amendment rights and instead become mouthpieces for the propaganda of the school.

Anonymous said...

What is a large group? more than one, half or more? all parents? If more than half parents do not like the school, they can move their kids to a public school and shut down the SA school. Why is this not happening?

Highly Effective King Clovis said...

This sounds awful on so many levels. I hope those kids get what they deserve, a great education, free of mistreatment.

Anonymous said...

My first thought was that I would have pulled my child from this school before now! Why would any parent allow their child to go through this?

Anonymous said...

I just pulled my child out the Flatbush location in Brooklyn..the advisors were switched unbeknownst to the parents..advisors communication with parents was insufficient..no stability for kids...teachers working from script instead of really teaching..unrealistic detention which is liable to extend depending on how the teacher feels...the principal told the kids she would embarrass them if they don't do well on the exam..the school is only concerned about their test percentages and not if the child really understand and grasps the work. NOTHING TO PLAY WITH DURING RECESS...the use of chromebook for homework hinder necessary hand writing skills and thought process crucial for kids at this age..they seem to forget these kids were 9 years old last year demanding a mature mentality from them and crushing their esteem... this is not Success. The school should be called DEFEAT ACADEMY..the elementary school was AWESOME though.

Anonymous said...

I agree

Anonymous said...

The success academies are filled with scab teachers who do not belong to a union but rather they belong to moskowitch. Moskowitch has the balls to criticize public school unions but her treatment of both students and staff is disgusting and a self profiteering scheme for these scab teachers and their swanky superiors.

The hypocrisy of the success schools and the hypocrisy of eva moskowitch is sickening and i am hoping that karma will find its way to moskowitch and the scabby schools she is running.

Anonymous said...

Scabs feeding from the left overs from the public schools. You are correct the success academies are filled with one and two year experienced scabs teaching your children!!! Do not fall for the propaganda.

Anonymous said...

If you have some many issues why on earth would you subject your child to this environment?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

You are so right

Anonymous said...

Parents feel desperate. They want their children to get a great education. Parents believe public schools are failures, and this is the agenda charter schools play on. The are no more than cults.The only let certain teachers in and try applying to one just to see. The process will make you physically stressed and sick.

Anonymous said...

Eva Moskovitz the owner of Success Charter Schools make a half million days a year. Wow. I think she should call herself Success.

Anonymous said...

Where else can they put their children. The parents believe public school s have failed their children. They so truly wanted to
believe that charter schools were different. I believe before putting your child in any school, after school program, public school or anyplace DO YOUR RESEARCH. Know the propaganda and the pros and cons.

Anonymous said...

This letter completely misrepresents the reality of the school life at SAHY. My daughter received two detentions for hand clasping, but she is very happy to attend, and looks forward to being in school every day. I saw some of the parents who wrote this letter while at the meeting in the school with Eva Moskowitz last Thursday. They represent a small minority, and are free to leave, as some have done early in the year due to invenuence or other considerations. Principal Russell is a sweet and kind person, and these grievances read like UFT propaganda.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the linkage between good teaching and a union though....

Michael Gary said...

If police, firefighters, drivers, machinists, and other large groups can have unions, then maybe you can't understand the linkage to many other things in life....

Karen Bracken said...

The first clue that this school would be a problem is the fact they call the students "scholars." This is the technique you will see being used in more schools as time goes by. This is how they break a child's spirit in order to conform to the greater good and not the individual. The US has been working with Russia since Eisenhower to merge the education systems. This can be proven if anyone were interested in taking the time to research it. What is taking place in education is not in the interest of providing good education. It is all about changing the values, attitudes, beliefs and dispositions of our children. Why do you think there is such an emphasis on social and emotional behavior? Oh to make nice people out of little Susie and Bobbie?? Not at all. Besides that is YOUR job not the job of the school. It is to evaluate what it will take to manipulate your child to the be a good global citizen. Loyalty to the state (government). Why do you think the schools now feed our children and the new push to provide medical services for our children? Oh so kids won't go hungry? So parents don't have to bother with those pesky parental responsibilities? Not way are those the reasons. It is all about taking away parental responsibility and parental authority. Brainwashing the children to grow up thinking the government is there to take care of them. Wake up and get your kids out of this system. The day will come when you won't even recognize your own children. Parents are all too willing to get rid of their kids as soon as possible and "they" know it. Pre-K, medical services, meals all the things parents should be doing the state is now doing. And all the while collecting MASSIVE amounts of data on you and your kids. Welcome to the USSA.

Anonymous said...

Why was this not a public school? Oh, right. Money.

Leonie Haimson said...

One of the Anonymous commentators above writes, "My daughter received two detentions for hand clasping, but she is very happy to attend and looks forward to being in school every day." I don't understand. Why is hand clasping a punishable offence?

Anonymous said...

Malik Russell is not qualified to run a school, the fact Eva Moskowitz is covering up the mismanagement of this school speaks for itself. she done that before. We left the school because of unqualified teachers he hired. Emily Silveira and Rudi Williams are in workforce as interns since 2016. Katherine Pleasants even worse. These so called "teachers" act like mean girls in high school, they are horrible individuals and abusive to children. I wish there was some authority that could have disciplined and prevented this behavior. However we were stuck with Russell and Moskowitz, so eventually we had to leave.

Anonymous said...

Malik Russell is not qualified to run a school, the fact Eva Moskowitz is covering up the mismanagement of this school speaks for itself. she done that before. We left the school because of unqualified teachers he hired. Emily Silveira and Rudi Williams are in workforce as interns since 2016. Katherine Pleasants even worse. These so called "teachers" act like mean girls in high school, they are horrible individuals and abusive to children. I wish there was some authority that could have disciplined and prevented this behavior. However we were stuck with Russell and Moskowitz, so eventually we had to leave.

Leonie Haimson said...

I'd love to talk to any parent formerly or currently at this school - off the record. If you're willing pl email me at leoniehaimson at gmail dot com with your phone no. thanks!

Anonymous said...

My child attends the school and loves it! He can't wait to go there and has had a great experience with his teachers and the principal, Malik Russell. This is not to say that the school is not experiencing problems with communication. Students were issued chromebooks with very little instruction on how to best on how effectively use them. Glitches in the programs that parents are expected to log on to to monitor grades and performance did not help. Homework assignments via email are confusing, especially when they are combined with classroom work, "do now" assignments and exit tickets. If the administration had taken the time to instruct the parents and students, and if they had not been so heavy handed with the detention in the first few weeks, I don't think that the complaints would have been so equally heavy handed. The homework is not excessive, but with flaws in the communication and the bombardment of emails for classroom and homework assignments, it takes my son more time to figure out what is due and when it is due rather than actually doing it. Not everyone is well versed in Google Docs/Apps, especially a 9 year old child. Everyone should take a breather! As for our family, Hudson Yards has been a positive experience overall.

Anonymous said...

I’m the anonymous poster with a daughter in SAHY with two detentions for the crime of not clasping her hands.

Most of those who have a problem with Success Academy, have a problem with it on ideological grounds. As political conflicts go, this one is sort of between the collectivists and individualists.

The ceaseless maligning of Moskowitz by the district school proponents, now for building an upscale school in Hudson Yards, is sort of like the struggle between the supporters of the crooked corrupt Hillary, and the supporters of the self-absorbed egotistical Donald.

To the UFT crowd - the district schools can do no wrong, and of course the charter schools are irredeemable prisons for children.

Hudson Yards is like any other SA school. During the first few weeks of every school year at SA Williamsburg, the teachers insisted on very strict discipline, and once they sensed respect, the hand clasping policy, for example, was relaxed and had been mostly overlooked. My daughter was upset over the detentions, of course, but she still very much looks forward to going to school every day.

Jen5jack said...

My daughter has been with Success in Cobble Hill since kindergarten and now attends SAHY.
No school I’ve seen is 100%. I too have my issues with Success and will be looking into other options for 6th grade. Honestly if she doesn’t get into one or two of the schools I’m applying to - she will end up by staying. She is happy there and wants to stay but also complains a bit. I totally disagree with everything negative said about Mr Russell. I have had many meetings with him. He is always accessible, listens and makes consessions when it makes sense. I have never waited more then 24 hours to hear back from
Him. I do think the the teachers are over worked and wish the school day was a bit shorter. The 2 biggest issues I have with the school is it’s location (but in fairness I knew that when I signed up) as well as the fact the Eva spent $68 million dollars and yet hey don’t have a gym!

Anonymous said...

This type of behavior is not only in Hudson Yards it's throughout all of Success Academy. The teachers talk to the children and parents in such a rude manner. THEY LIKE TO SPEAK TO CHILDREN AND PARENTS IN A WAY TO PUT YOU DOWN. I used to think that it was because I was a minority but then I spoke to other parents and found out they treat everyone like they are superior. My children no longer feel enthusiastic about attending school not because of the rigorous work. But because they are picking up on the attitude and tone the teachers are using with them.
We, the students and parents rallied for the rights of Success Academy because we believed in Eve's dream. I have to say I'm now having second thoughts, because our choice came with a price.

Anonymous said...

This is a new school, and many new schools that open have difficutlies initially. The complaints that these parents arise solely from the full visibility of charter schools, especially Success Academy. I have worked in both public schools and charter schools and I can assure you that district schools are just as "draconian" and if they aren't, the children are running WILD and unsupervised. There are either punitive consequences or none whatsoever. There is no consistency, and no one cares. Kids are allowed to fail, and expectations are LOW. Children with IEPs don't get re-evaluated and are often left to sit at the back at the room chronically failing. That's why you have students in 7th grade still reading at a 4th grade level. If SA is a cult, how is UFT any different? People get to hide behind tenure and barely meet the requirements of their contract, collect their check and keep it moving. There are no resources. SA definitely isn't perfect. Things are VERY strict, the curriculum is rigorous and the children are held to a sometimes seemingly unachievable standard. BUT...the children and teachers have everything. The schools are beautiful and fully equipped. The kids have all sorts of extra curricular. There are assemblies with members from the Apollo theater, the cast of The Lion King, politicians, etc that come to the school regularly. Kids go on regularly scheduled Field Trips all over NY and are given a wide variety of experiences that most kids don't get in school. Older kids travel nationally. SA definitely isn't a good match for everyone, but what school is? District, private, charter, montessori or otherwise? Especially in New York, it sometimes comes down to the individual teacher.

Anonymous said...

My child is new to the school in 5th grade this year... From my vantage point, all of the issues in the above mentioned letter have been resolved. I don't like the detention, but it seems to be based on academic issues like not doing homework and wasn't particularly shaming or punitive... The only issue that really is a problem is the unbelievable volume of homework, which is excessive and unmanageable. However, I'm still hopeful that it will be addressed over time. All other aspects of the school are very positive, and we like the teachers and new principal.

Anonymous said...

I have a feeling they're not the ones dispensing the propaganda. Can you say paid troll?