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Co-located, but not co-equal

A Bronx school points to the inequities
New York Teacher
Community School 55 in the Bronx
Erica Berger

Assistant Principal George Martinek takes community leaders and other visitors on a tour of Community School 55 in the Bronx.

Community School 55 in the Morrisania section of the Bronx has a Success Academy charter school co-located in its building, but the disparity in their resources and the student populations they serve makes them anything but co-equal.

That’s what Principal Luis Torres told parents, district administrators, community leaders and elected officials he invited to tour CS 55, which is located in the poorest Congressional district in the country. At the event on March 24, Torres highlighted the disadvantages that public schools face when they host charter schools in their buildings.

Public schools get matching funds when charter schools co-located in public school buildings make facility upgrades valued at more than $5,000. But while CS 55 uses the funds to make upgrades that benefit both public and charter school students — such as auditorium improvements and a new cafeteria — the charter school’s projects only benefit their own students, he said. “They benefit twice from anything I do,” he said.

Maria Morales, the UFT’s Bronx parent liaison, said the co-location was like a “tale of two cities” for the CS 55 students. “You have this beautiful place just one floor up from you,” she said. “Then you come one floor down and you look around and you’re like, ‘OK, I guess I’m not privileged.’ ”

CS 55 PTA Secretary Maria Cosme said the school would like its facilities to be on par with those of Success Academy. The charter school has upgraded bathrooms, while CS 55’s are older and frequently flood, she said.

“We feel that we should get the same things they get,” she said. “It’s only fair. They’re sharing our building.”

Torres said it is not fair to compare his students’ test scores with those of the Success Academy school in the same building because CS 55 has a higher percentage of special education students and children who live in temporary housing, and, he said, the charter “takes all my top students.”

“Don’t label me failing when you’re doing the easy work and I’m doing the hard work,” Torres said.