UPDATE: Parents, Students and Community Not Sure They Have Real Voice in School Co-Location Process
The DOE insists that it gives weight to the community voices.
"We encourage community members to voice their opinions at public hearings that take place in advance of the Panel for Educational Policy's votes on phase-outs and colocations," the DOE said in a statement released to the Voice. "These hearings are integral components of the PEP's decision-making process, and we value all of the input we receive from parents and communities around the City."
Councilwoman Letitia James, who represents District 13 where Susan McKinney is located, has a different take on the proposal process leading up to today's vote.
"It's a charade. It's a farce. The decision has already been made," James tells the Voice. "All I wanted was to engage in an honest and open discussion with the Department of Education, and I've been denied that [and] the community [has been as well]."
Approval of today's six proposed Success Academy co-locations would bring the charter school to a total of 20 locations across the city. James believes that the push to expand Success Academy's reach is a part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's larger agenda for the city's educational landscape.
"This is a rush to beat the clock, and the clock is winding down on this administration. This is an attempt to get as many in as possible because we all recognize that change is coming, reform is coming to mayoral control," James said. "This is not in the best interest of children. This is in the best interest of operators of charter schools who are viewing this primarily from the viewpoint of what real estate is available in the city of New York."
Friedman noted that even though the majority of co-locations involve new district schools, charter schools seem to receive the blunt of the stigma when it comes to co-locations.
"It seems that when charter schools come in, [there's] more difficulty and a bit more controversy," Friedman said. "But again, the idea of 55 percent of seats staying empty , when you have parents knocking down the door to come to Success Academy, it makes no sense to me...There's enough capacity in these schools for everybody to share space together."
Fiote says that while she's not against charter schools, she does have a problem with the way Success Academy has approached the potential co-location of the building.
"For the record, I am not against charter schools. I am a parent myself, and I am pro-choice, and I believe every parent has a right to choose where their kids go to school what level of education [they receive]," Fiote said. "I am against the way [Success] bullied [its] way into these schools. In order for success Academy to succeed, our school has to die."
With the impending vote on the co-location set for 6 p.m., the DOE and Friedman insist that Susan McKinney will not suffer from the potential co-location.
"Success is a good neighbor," Friedman said. "We're interested in the success of everybody in the school and we're going to be a good partner -- cooperating with other schools when we come in."