Monday, January 15, 2018

Five questions to SUNY about proposed enrollment revisions at Success Academy charter schools

 I will post any response I receive from Mr. Rossi.

January 15, 2018

Ralph Rossi, General Counsel
SUNY Charter Institute
By email to:
Dear Mr. Rossi:

Proposed revisions in the enrollment of many charter schools are under consideration by the SUNY board.[1]  I cannot ascertain if the SUNY board has voted on these revisions already, but I have questions about those proposed by the Success Academy Network:

1.       1. Success Academy is the only Charter Management Organization requesting SUNY authorization to revise current enrollments at 12 schools, revisions that have presumably already occurred. Can you explain how requests for authorization to revise current school enrollments are legal?

2    2. Five of these Success Academy charter schools are proposing expansions in their enrollments for this year and next.  There is also a net increase across all twelve Success Academy schools of 444 students proposed for next year.  According to the mandated process described on the SUNY charter institute website, SUNY requires 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…[an] Explanation of how the plan fits the facility or facilities plan of the school.” [2]
Can you supply the explanations provided by Success Academy of how these expansions fit the facilities plans for these five schools and across the Network as a whole?

     3. Success Academy Cobble Hill is one of the five Success Academy schools requesting an expansion of its enrollment.  Yet the average utilization of D15 schools, according to the DOE Blue Book report for 2016-2017, is already at 114%, and 70% of K-8 schools in the district are already overcrowded. About 79% of K8 students in the district, nearly 20,000, are crammed in overcrowded schools, and 92 cluster rooms missing from these schools. according to DOE’s latest utilization report.[3] Meanwhile the student population in the district is still growing fast. Housing starts data posted in March of last year 2017 multiplied by the City Planning ratio would project that more than 4,700 additional K-8 seats will be needed in D15 by 2019.[4]

The NYC five-year capital plan has only funded about half of the D15 seats necessary, according to the DOE estimates.[5]  Yet the NYC DOE’s Office of District Planning has confirmed to the President of the Community Education Council D15 that only 61% of currently enrolled SACH students live in the district.  Does SUNY take this information into account before approving the school’s expansion, and if not, why not?

             4.  I note that Success Academy Cobble Hill as well as four other SAC schools, including SAC Crown Heights, SAC Fort Greene, SAC Harlem 2, and SAC Harlem 5 all violated federal student privacy law, according to SUNY 2016 site visit reports.[6] In each of these Renewal Reports, the same observation is made:

The Institute and school worked cooperatively to correct minor infractions at the site visit regarding Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) wherein the intent of the school was laudable but technically a violation, and the New York Freedom of Information Law(“FOIL”) wherein the list of records was incomplete. 

Can you explain what these FERPA violations involved, and why you consider them “minor infractions”?  As you may or may not be aware, the Success Academy is currently under investigation by the US Department of Education for serious FERPA violations in at least one another case.[7] 

      5.  In looking more closely at the Renewal report of Success Academy Cobble Hill, I see the following charts, which appear to show that only a small percentage of students with disabilities and English Language Learners at the school were tested on the state exams in 2017, compared to the overall number of students with these classifications. [8] 

Can you explain why such a small number of students at these schools in these categories were tested?

Hoping to hear from you soon, 

Leonie Haimson
Class Size Matters/Parent Coalition for Student Privacy
124 Waverly Pl. New York, NY 10011

Cc: Camille Casaretti, President, Community Education Council 15
Chancellor Betty Rosa, Regent Kathleen Cashin, Regent Luis Reyes
Joseph Belluck, chair of SUNY Charter Committee
Chancellor Carmen Farina
Laura Barbieri, Attorney, Advocates for Justice

[4] Housing start data: combined with NYC Planning public school ratio.

[6]  (Report Date: October 11, 2016; Visit Date: September 14, 2016), p. 22.   See also  (Report Date: October 11, 2016; Visit Date: September 14, 2016).  p. 22.  (Report Date: October 11, 2016; Visit Date: September 15, 2016), p. 22. (Report Date: October 11, 2016, Visit Date: September 16, 2016), p. 24. (Report Date: October 11, 2016; Visit Date: September 13, 2016), p. 22.

[7] Dale King, Director, Family Compliance Office, US Department of Education, Letter to Fatima Geidi, December 7, 2017.

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