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More than 700 parents, teachers, students and staff members turned out for a public hearing on Oct. 8 to voice their opposition to the co-location of a Success Academy charter school at IS 78 in Bergen Beach.
The auditorium was standingroom only, and another room was opened up to handle the overflow crowd. School officials credited parent organizers for the great turnout, which included local elected officials, who stood with the community in opposition to the plan.
The Department of Education has proposed turning over the IS 78 basement to the charter, which would serve grades K-4. Chapter Leader Justin Schoen said the co-location would play havoc with the school’s newfound stability.
After being a revolving door for principals for years, IS 78 has finally settled down under Principal Anthony Cusumano, a former social studies teacher and assistant principal. Student scores have started to trend upward and safety is vastly improved, said Schoen, who teaches 7th- and 8th-grade social studies. Each grade — 6 through 8 — has its own floor, and daily dismissal of the 950 students is organized for maximum safety and order.
“We’ve made a major turnaround,” said Schoen. “The school community has a more positive feeling.”
Many IS 78 staff members attended the school as children, still live in the community and send their own children to the school. Retail merchants on Avenue N, who appreciate the improved safety in and outside the school, are also supportive.
Schoen said IS 78 has a range of after-school programs, everything from archery to photography and even cooking, that will be begging for space if the charter school moves in. School programs such as art, band and choir will also be squeezed. “They want to take over the entire basement,” said Schoen. “And as their school grows, they’ll take more space from us.”
IS 78 is well-served by a number of excellent feeder schools in the district. These elementary schools, critics of the co-location say, will also be harmed as the new charter siphons off enrollment.
That has led Schoen to one conclusion: “The New York City Department of Education does not have the best interests of IS 78 in mind,” he said.