Published: February 13, 2013
Publication Daily News
By Ben Chapman, Corrine Lestch
The plaintiffs argue that sharing space with a charter will jeopardize its formula for success: smaller classes that provide students with more attention
Tyrone Francisco (far right, wearing glasses) is one of more than 60 students from Brownsville Academy High School who will be plaintiffs in a suit to block the city from allowing a charter school to share space in the school’s building. The suit is expected to be filed in federal court on Wednesday.
By the city’s standards, Brownsville Academy High School in Brooklyn is a success: the transfer school for former dropouts has scored an “A” on its last two report cards.
But students and parents are now headed to court to defend those very achievements from what they say is impending encroachment from a city-approved charter school.
More than 60 students and five parents will file suit in Manhattan Federal Court Wednesday, arguing that Brownsville Academy’s learning environment will be jeopardized when the charter school with the Success Academy network moves into its building in September.
Arthur Schwartz, a lawyer from Advocates for Justice who is representing the plaintiffs, contends that the city Department of Education approved the Brooklyn Success Charter Academy 7 because they deemed “the building is underutilized.” But he said the blending of schools will put kindergartners and first-graders from the charter in the same building with high school students, most of whom are 18 to 21 — older than normal because they had previously dropped out.
An exterior photograph of the Brownsville Academy High School in Brooklyn.
Tyrone Francisco, 18, one of the student plaintiffs, said the school’s model works because the pupils thrive in small classes where they get personalized attention.
“We need more space, because all the students here failed in big schools with 24 kids in a classroom,” he said.
Currently, there are 240 Brownsville Academy students using 32 classrooms. Success Academy will take up 22 of the classrooms within three years.
Former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz runs Success Academy Charter Schools, which the city approved to place a school in the campus used by the Brownsville Academy High School.
Schwartz is suing the city for not complying with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which mandates small-group instruction for children with learning disabilities. He said roughly 25% of the Brownsville students have learning disabilities. But the city, which did not comment because it had yet to be served with the suit, pegged that number at 8%.
“This imposition of another school will make it impossible for these students with disabilities to get the education they’re entitled to,” Schwartz charged.
A spokeswoman for the charter network, run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, also declined to comment.