Saturday, December 23, 2017

Why Success Academy-Cobble Hill shouldn't be allowed to expand: Comments to the SUNY Charter committee

There have been many charter school hearings on renewals and revisions to their charters including 11 for Success Academy charters, involving changing proposed enrollments and grade levels, sometimes in the middle of this school year. Six of them will occur on Jan. 3 and Jan 4. Parents are encouraged to attend these hearings and speak out, and/or send comments; more information at each of the links here. Below are my comments on one of these proposals.

Comments on the proposed revision of the charter

for Success Academy-Cobble Hill

by email to: charters@suny.edu
CC: Joseph Belluck, jbelluck@belluckfox.com
CEC15@schools.nyc.gov

December 22, 2017

Success Academy Cobble Hill has requested authorization from SUNY to revise its charter and allow its enrollment to 880 students and expand grade levels to 7th grade.[1]

During the 2016-2017 school year, 284 Baltic St., Building Number K293, the current building in which the school is located, was at 92% utilization. Total enrollment stood at 1,247 students, with a capacity for the building of 1,360. [2]

If the school was to stay in this building, the proposed increase by Success Academy Cobble Hill would bring the school over capacity, subjecting students to overcrowding and likely causing class sizes to grow.
  • The Boerum Hill School for International Studies currently has 633 students enrolled, according to the school’s website.
  • The Digital Arts and Cinema Technology High School has a current enrollment of 206, according to the school’s website.
  • Digital Arts was recently “rebranded” from Global Studies – and any authorization allowing Success to expand would constrain the growth of this school– when the DOE looks at any school below 250 as potentially unsustainable and difficult to provide students with their fair share of coursework and resources.
  • We are unable to locate current enrollment data for K368 SPED, which itself was overcrowded in 2016-2017, according to the Blue Book, with 25 students and at a utilization rate of 156%.
  • However, supposing that enrollment at K368 SPED remained stable compared to last year (at 25 students) that would leave only room for 496 students for Success Academy Cobble Hill – not the 880 students they are asking to be authorized to serve next year.
Now it possible that Success Academy plans to move the school to another building, but I cannot find any information about this eventuality, despite the SUNY requirements that “A material charter revision to modify enrollment to more than what was provided for in the charter agreement (charter paragraph 2.2 (a)) would require the school to submit…Explanation of how the plan fits the facility or facilities plan of the school.”[3]

In any case, the average utilization of D15 schools, according to the 2015-2016 DOE Utilization report, was at 105%, and 61% of K-8 schools in the district overcrowded (at or above 100% target utilization). About 74% or nearly 20,000 K-8 students were in overcrowded schools, and 94 cluster rooms were missing from these schools. according to DOE’s utilization formula.[4]

Meanwhile the student population is growing fast. Housing starts data posted by DOE in March 2017 multiplied by the City Planning ratio, projects more than 4,700 additional K-8 seats will be needed in D15 by 2019.[5]

At the same time, the DOE five-year capital plan has only funded about 50 % of the D15 seats necessary, according to the DOE figures.[6] Our estimates are that the real need for seats in D15 is even greater, given current overcrowding and enrollment growth.

If it is true, as cited in the letter from the Community Education Council in District 15, that many of the students at the Success Academy Cobble Hill do not reside in the district, that means that any expansion of this school would increasingly crowd out districts students in the future, and thus should not be allowed.[7]

We also oppose allowing the expansion of any Success Academy charter school, given the huge number of civil rights violations and abuses that children enrolled in these schools and their families are subjected to, as well as repeated violations of student privacy rights.[8]

Finally, we have real doubts as to the legality of the request to authorize any change in a charter school’s enrollment in the middle of the current school year, as Success Academy – Cobble Hill is proposing, from 558 students in grades K-6, to 686 students in in 2017-2018.[9]

In short, I urge you to reject this proposal.

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Leonie@classsizematters.org
917-435-9329

[1] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DEN1PI8ZWjNtvtnOJ3Yj_u0QUdmdKFA_/view

[2] NYC Dept. of Education, Enrollment, Capacity & Utilization Report, 2016 – 2017 School Year, at: Https://Dnnhh5cc1.Blob.Core.Windows.Net/Portals/0/Capital_Plan/Utilization_Reports/Blue%20book%202016-2017.Pdf?Sr=B&Si=Dnnfilemanagerpolicy&Sig=G7ezjxloaazfmxphd0cfojryifbrvwf8d5mf9ifcspa%3d

[3] http://www.newyorkcharters.org/revisions/

[4] https://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/District-15-updated.pptx

[5] Housing start data here: http://www.nycsca.org/Community/Capital-Plan-Reports-Data#Housing-Projections-70 City Planning public school ratio here: https://dnnhh5cc1.blob.core.windows.net/portals/0/Capital_Plan/Housing_Projections/NewHousingMultiplier.pdf?sr=b&si=DNNFileManagerPolicy&sig=P2ZgFKQmkXqjy%2BYz0G8WR5IXjzii3Z7IDJSSWJcm0e4%3D

[6] School Construction Authority Five-year Capital plan, p. 21 at https://dnnhh5cc1.blob.core.windows.net/portals/0/Capital_Plan/Capital_plans/11162017_15_19_CapitalPlan.pdf?sr=b&si=DNNFileManagerPolicy&sig=6ZUDr4YoMGig5oWw5%2F%2BCYdMy8CV09qjwltkO3KZ0QkU%3D , Nov. 2017.

[7] Community Education Council District 15, Letter to SUNY board, SUNY Charter School Institute and Chancellor Farina, dated Dec. 20, 2017.

[8] https://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2015/10/ferpa-complaint-from-fatima-geidi-to.html and http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2015/10/success_academies_eva_moskowitz_published_a_student_s_disciplinary_record.html

See also the recent violation of FERPA in the school’s response to a lawsuit about a child’s illegal suspension here: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/sucess-academy-student-family-sues-lengthy-suspension-article-1.3698772 See also the various lawsuits and civil rights complaints against this charter chain noted here: https://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2017/09/why-emily-kim-former-attorney-for.html

[9] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DEN1PI8ZWjNtvtnOJ3Yj_u0QUdmdKFA_/view See also CEC2 letter about this issue in regards the request to revise enrollment figures in the middle of the current school year, at Success Academy- Union Square and Success Academy- Hells Kitchen at http://files.constantcontact.com/9348a5e4301/af78ba42-c0ed-4b48-8184-857f80ef142c.pdf

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