Co-Location Woes in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

Students protest co-location at Coney Island Prep, in 2011. Co-location is a concern across the city.  (BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/file photo via Home Reporter News)

Students protest co-location at Coney Island Prep in 2011. Co-location is a concern across the city. (Photo by Brooklyn Media Group/file photo via Home Reporter News)

It’s a battle that’s being waged all across the city and a hot button campaign issue for Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio: the controversial practice of co-location, placing a charter school in a public school building. Reports from Denise Romano of the Home Reporter News reveal that yet another public school has been approved for co-location, this time after a surreptitious meeting that few community members knew about. Romano takes us to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn where parents and teachers are reeling.

Members of the greater District 21 educational community are calling a public hearing for the application to co-locate a charter school at I.S. 96 a “sham” since notice for the hearing had been sent out just days before and no representatives for the charter school, Success Academy, or the State University of New York were present.

The meeting occurred on September 24 after notice went out on September 19, a Jewish religious holiday (first day of Sukkot). Although no law exists mandating charter schools to inform the community about hearings, outraged parents felt that fair notice had not been given.

“How could you do this? How can you backdoor the parents?” demanded John Talmadge, a parent from I.S. 281. “We have no rights as parents? Why shouldn’t we have a time frame? You want to take teachers away that our children love.”

Talmadge – the only parent present at the hearing – noted that the hearing conflicted with an orientation going on at Cavallaro; this paper [Home Reporter News] learned that there was also a PTA meeting at I.S. 96.

With the religious holidays and other conflicts in mind, the Community Education Council for District 21 had requested that the Department of Education (DOE) reschedule the meeting, to no avail.

Assembly member Bill Colton gave a fiery testimony.

“This hearing is a nullity,” he charged. “We have been thwarted by unreasonable interpretations of the law by DOE. I will look into putting an amendment to the law to make it mandatory to let people know ahead of time.

“This either shows incompetence or indifference and I think it’s indifference,” Colton concluded.

Despite a community up in arms, Harry Hartfield, a DOE spokesman, defended co-location policies.

“A once-broken system has been transformed with new, high performing schools – and those additional options have delivered extraordinary outcomes for children. Our strategy has worked, and with this new school [Success Charter Academy] that progress will continue.”

But critics of co-location are as high up on the food chain as one prospective mayor. Before de Blasio emerged victorious as the Democratic nominee for mayor, he was a vocal adversary of co-location and calls for a moratorium on the issue.

“If Mayor Bloomberg has his way while his closest political partner Speaker Quinn stays silent, nearly half of the proposed co-location plans will put schools over 100% capacity.  This means larger class sizes for our students,” de Blasio said before the primary. “Bloomberg’s proposals are a cynical effort to lock communities into permanent changes while ignoring community voices, and Speaker Quinn’s refusal to support a moratorium is letting Bloomberg have his way.”

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