PS/MS 138 School Community Rejects Proposed Co-location of Charter School

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Student at PS 138 attends a hearing on the plnned co-locsation of a charter school in their building.. Photo Jonathan Jeronimo

Students, parents, teachers and community stakeholders packed a formal hearing on a proposed co-location in the PS/MS 138 building. They came to defend their school from encroachment from Success Academy, an aggressive charter school group.

PS/MS 138 promotes academic excellence and has received an “A” rating on its DOE progress report for 5 of the last 6 years.

Principal Marie Chauvet-Monchik created a math, science and technology program that serves all K-8 students. Students from 138 generally enter high school with 6-8 advanced credits. Monchik has strategically acquired resources to install several science labs in the school, complete with Bunsen burners. Monchik credits Councilman Al Vann for sponsoring the school’s 3 computer labs complete with desktops, laptops and hard-wired Internet.

Current PS/MS 138 students spoke up for their school with confidence.

Graduating 8thgrader Chanel Webster: “I strongly oppose this decision. I have been attending this school since second grade.

Fifth-grader Gracelyn read her statement from her iPhone. “I must say having another school will cause a lot of problems. The spaces in our school let us have more opportunity to learn and be ourselves. I love my classroom science lab and other resources in our school. My sisters went to 138 and always say good things about it. I want to be their age and say 138 helped me in high school, college and beyond,” said Gracelyn. “I love my school and don’t want it to be taken over. Would you like it if someone came and took over your space? No, you wouldn’t. And neither would I. I hope that you can look at yourselves and see what you are doing is wrong for our school and wrong for our community.”

Michael Bennett, senior: “To me, they are trying to invade our school. Unlike other schools, this school has after-school activities I like, like SAT Prep, Regents Prep, Beacon and more. The specialized high school prep is free in our school. This school provides 3 or 4 Regents courses. By the time I get to high school, I will have 6 or 8 credits that I can use as a freshman. During the school year 2011-12, 2 seniors graduated going to 2 specialized high schools: Brooklyn Tech and Stuyvesant. At least 80% of 2011-12 seniors aced the test. Save our school.”

Councilman Al Vann questioned DOE’s premise that the co-location will not affect (in any way) the academic excellence in 138. “It is obvious (on its face) that this is a ridiculous proposal,” said Vann. “It’s an excellent school. Five years, five years of getting A’s on the chancellor’s progress report. If I were the chancellor, I would be celebrating 138. I would hold up 138 to the entire city of New York and say look what you can do. Teachers, faculty, everybody at 138 would be known all over the world. This is what to expect public education to do.”

“This should be a model, a prototype, going forward,” Vann added. “I cannot believe you have a shining star and that you would try to do anything to affect that. That’s disrespectful to our children, disrespectful to our parents, disrespectful to our community. DOE, chancellor, let’s gain some respect for our people. Do the right thing. Withdraw this application.”

State Senator Eric Adams asked what is the agenda behind the co-location proposal. “We fought hard to close prisons upstate. The only common denominator of those who are incarcerated is not ethnicity. It’s academic standing,” said Adams. “If we create an environment where children can not only compete in Brownsville and Bedford-Stuyvesant, but in Budapest and Belgium, then why are we all dismantling it?”

The PS/MS 138 School Leadership Team (SLT) described the problems of co-location, which DOE tried a few years ago, found overcrowding, then reversed.

Explore Empower Charter Schools (EECS) co-located in PS/MS 138’s building Sept. 2009. By early 2010, DOE determined that EECS had to be relocated because combined population of both schools (1,098 at the time) interfered with accommodations for students with disabilities. Fire drill building evacuations went from under 5 minutes to 15 minutes. There was no room for EESC (then K-2) to grow to grades K-8.

The Panel for Education Policy (PEP) quickly moved EESC to another building.

According to 138’s SLT, PS/MS 138 building was overcrowded at 1,098 in 2009-10 due to co-location, yet DOE presented the current co-location plan with a building target capacity of 1,468.  Co-location of Success Academy would shrink PS/MS 138 by up to 20 classrooms.

DOE’s Building Utilization Plan (BUP)  recognizes only 2 hard-wired science labs and mentions no others. A permanent, stepped music room is not described as such. Instead, it is counted as a regular classroom. But the room is only appropriate for music instruction.

BUP states cafeteria capacity is 570 when posted signs indicate that capacity is 300. The plan proposes shortening student lunch periods when teachers and paraprofessionals are contractually mandated to have a 50-minute lunch. Cutting student lunch would create an impossible coverage situation.

The Medgar Evers College Beacon program is in constant operation during nonschool hours providing a variety of services to 400-500 members of the school community from 3-6pm. Success Academy contemplates using the building until 4:45pm, which would encroach on the Beacon program.

The SLT said  co-location “would take away space that is essential to our instructional program, harming current and future students.”

Kirsten Foy, President of the National Action Network Brooklyn Chapter said, “Education is the

Civil Right of the 21st  century. A school like PS/MS 138 is a national model for where the Civil Rights Movement is going.”

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