Rumor has it that when Success Academy founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz recently toured the Bensonhurst school building where her new school had just put down stakes, she looked out the window and complained that a giant tree in the park across the street was blocking the view from her fourth-floor classrooms.
“All we know is that 24 hours later, that tree was removed by the city,” said Judy Gerowitz, the UFT District 21 representative.
Educators at IS 96, the Seth Low Intermediate School in Brooklyn, are wondering if Moskowitz has the power to end the life of an old tree what else she is capable of.
Success Academy Bensonhurst has taken up 12 classrooms and more than three-quarters of the fourth floor for its kindergarten students. The school is slated to expand to the entire fourth floor and part of the third floor next year as it grows, even as Seth Low rebuilds under the leadership of a new principal.
At an early-morning meeting with UFT President Michael Mulgrew on Oct. 2, teachers at Seth Low had a chance to discuss their concerns as the school year — and the school’s first co-location — began.
Coincidentally, Oct. 2 was the date of a charter school rally in Manhattan, and seven large coach buses idled in front of the school as the Success Academy emptied out its students for the morning and shuttled them, staff and parents to Foley Square.
Inside, the two schools’ students are kept separate. “Teachers on the fourth floor tell me that they just don’t interact with us — if one of our students does accidentally walk into their hallway, they get them out fast,” said special education teacher Howard Rybak.
The students at the two schools use different entry and exit doors.
Seth Low educators, parents, community members and elected officials organized protest rallies and objected vociferously at public hearings last school year about the proposed co-location. Chapter Leader Sokol Muja said they were concerned their new math and science academies as well as their new medical program in affiliation with Maimonides Hospital would be harmed.
“All these charter schools are pulling kids and pulling money from our system,” said Corinne Kaufman, a math teacher for 25 years at Seth Low.
In his discussion with the Seth Low educators, Mulgrew said that charter schools call themselves public when they ask for funding and facilities, but then say in court that they are private businesses when it comes to auditing their finances and operations.
“There’s no transparency and the economics are very different,” he said. “That’s what I’m concerned about.”