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Manhattan district schools protest Moskowitz co-locations
by Micah Landau | November 1, 2012 New York Teacher issue
“Hey, Eva, we’re no fools! We won’t let you ruin our schools!” chanted more than 70 teachers from the six schools on the Washington Irving Campus, near Manhattan’s Union Square, as they rallied on the campus steps on Oct. 18 against the possible co-location of a new Success Academy charter school inside their building.
Washington Irving is one of two Manhattan high school campuses outside the Success Academy’s traditional domain in Harlem that the charter school chain has targeted for co-location. The other, Graphic Arts, is located in Hell’s Kitchen and is home to three schools. Parents, teachers and students from both campuses are putting up a spirited fight against the co-location proposals.
Speaking at the rally outside Washington Irving, International HS at Union Square Chapter Leader Thomas Hasler blasted Harlem Success founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz for creating “separate and unequal schools.”
“We need what is right for our children,” Hasler said. “We fight for our students. Our kids have nothing; she has glitzy bathrooms and her own cafeteria.”
Success Academy is slated to take over space vacated by the phasing-out Washington Irving HS, but Hasler said that teachers fear it won’t be long before the charter tries to take additional space from the remaining schools. They’re also upset that Moskowitz’s school will have 27 classrooms, significantly more than any other school in the building, Hasler said.
Gregg Lundahl, the veteran UFT chapter leader at Washington Irving HS, described the co-location as a “real estate giveaway.”
The mayor is handing away “public real estate to somebody for her own purposes,” Lundahl said. “What’s happening to Washington Irving HS is failure by design, and these other schools will be forced out.”
That’s a fear shared by teachers at the Graphic Arts Campus, said Jeanne LaConti, the UFT chapter leader at the HS of Graphic Communication Arts.
“What’s going to happen if the charter comes in?” LaConti asked. “Are we going to just disappear?”
LaConti said she doesn’t know how a new school will fit in the already overcrowded building.
“We already don’t have enough rooms,” she said. “We have advisory classes doubling up in a room, and we don’t have enough office space for guidance counselors, speech teachers and deans.”
LaConti said the space crunch has also affected special education programming since mandated counselors do not have private spaces in which to meet with students, and she said that she and her colleagues fear the co-location will spell the end of their school’s after-school academic and sports programming.
But, like their colleagues at Washington Irving, LaConti said the schools on the Graphic Arts Campus intend to fight back. Teachers from both campuses reached out to parents during Parent-Teacher Night on Oct. 25 and 26, and intend to continue to protest at their schools.
The campus communities will also protest at their respective school-based hearings held before representatives of the Department of Education, and will come together to protest at the citywide Panel for Educational Policy meeting at which the panel is expected to rubber-stamp the two co-location proposals.
LaConti acknowledged that the schools have a difficult road ahead of them.
“It will be a challenge,” she said. “But we’re going to organize against it.”