matter of time

Success Academy's charter rally shutdown plan draws criticism

0925131725Brooklyn City Councilman Stephen Levin is not happy that some charter school students are getting let out of class next month to attend a political rally, and he wants Chancellor Dennis Walcott to do something about it.

“This would never be allowed at a public school, and it has no place in charter schools either,” Levin said in a statement that his office emailed this morning. “I call on Chancellor Walcott to intervene so that Ms. Mosowitz’s [sic] political rallies are not being held at a time when students should be learning.”

Levin — who in June called for a ban on new charter schools — was referring to the Oct. 8 charter school rally that’s being organized in part by Success Academy Charter Schools founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz. Other charter schools are involved as well — organizers said they expect more than 15,000 people to participate — but Moskowitz alone is the only charter school operator shutting her entire network for the morning.

Moskowitz is closing her schools while the event takes place so that staff and students can attend. It’s not technically mandatory for parents to attend the event, but Moskowitz made it clear in an email last week that their attendance is important.

Organizers of the rally, caught off guard by the focus on Moskowitz’s role, have rushed to insist that the event will represent a much larger swath of the city’s 183-charter school sector than Success schools. Jeremiah Kittredge, executive director of Families for Excellent Schools, one of the groups organizing the event, said no parents or students would be required to go.

“Most schools are approaching this as a civic field lesson that students can opt into,” Kittredge said in a statement.

Moskowitz’s schools have been the target of criticism from Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio, who has said he would charge rent to charter schools that operate in city-owned buildings — calling out Success schools in particular.

“These issues are tremendously important,” Moskowitz told parents in a letter on Saturday that urged them to attend. “If we lose ground — literally, if we lose access to public space — we cannot fulfill our commitment to you and your scholar.”

Levin suggested that Success parents aren’t being given much of a choice over whether to attend.

“Forcing parents and children to march in a political rally is obscene and has no place in our schools,” Levin said in the statement. “It is insulting that someone who is supposed to be educating New York City’s children would choose to pull kids out of school in order to benefit her political agenda.”

“Families that are there are there by choice — it’s the key principle that undergirds everything we do,” Kittredge said in the statement.

It’s unclear what, if any, steps Walcott could take to actually put a stop to the rally even if he wanted to — which he likely does not, because the Bloomberg administration supported the expansion of the charter sector. Charter schools receive public funds but are privately managed, and the Department of Education has little control over how the schools structure their schedules.

Although Levin’s statement reflects concern about students losing out on valuable learning time, most charter schools have longer days and years than district schools. Moskowitz calculated that by eighth grade, Success students will have accrued an extra 2.7 years of class time over district school students.

“We treat ‘time’ as one of our most precious commodities and we don’t make decisions to engage in civic field trips lightly,” Moskowitz wrote in an email to principals in her network on Monday.

It’s not unusual for charter schools to take students out of school to advocate for civic issues that are aligned to education policy. Every year, the charter sector takes a group students to Albany to lobby lawmakers to be more supportive of charter schools. And classes are suspended in the Democracy Prep network on election days so students can help get out the vote.

Still, other school leaders who are planning to attend the event said today that they’re taking a less aggressive approach.

“For us it’s really focused on getting our families out,” said Public Prep CEO Ian Rowe, who runs a three-school charter network with about 1,100 students. Rowe said his schools would stay open and that only two classes of eighth graders would attend “to witness the action as an experiential field trip.”

Moskowitz appears to making her plea to parents in person as well. She is scheduled to visit Cobble Hill Success Academy to meet with parents Friday morning for an “important parent meeting,” according to a flier that is posted at the school.

Morty Ballen, CEO of Explore Charter Schools, said he would be hosting a series of meetings with parents to urge them to attend. But he said his teachers and students would stay in school.

Ballen said the tougher decision for him was whether to attend at all. At last year’s rally, which left the city’s charter sector divided, Ballen decided not to join Moskowitz at City Hall.

But this year, with the mayoral election a potential turning point for the charter sector, Ballen said, he believed it is important to unite charter school parents in one place to be heard.

“I don’t think this is about Success,” Ballen said. “I think this is about a moment as a sector where we find out what it takes moving forward to operate successfully.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.