Success Academy Faces Investigation By SUNY Charter Institute After Fort Greene School Scandal

Photo courtesy of Del Scorcho.
Photo courtesy of Del Scorcho.

Success Academy Fort Greene and its sister branches face an investigation by the state board that licenses charter schools, after a scandal last fall that saw the school and its umbrella organization face renewed scrutiny for allegedly pressuring parents — via memos, meetings, and repeated suspensions of their children — to withdraw their student’s enrollment.

The State University Charter Institute reportedly now seeks to determine whether Success Academy, as well as other charter schools in the state, have abused their disciplinary policies to force out struggling students.

The move comes after our local Community Education Council District 13 (CEC 13) voted to call on the Department of Education and SUNY to put a moratorium on co-locating SA charter schools in District 13, require full disclosure of disciplinary policies from all charters seeking to open, and performance of a quality review of all SA schools in the area.

In SUNY’s latest move, according to the New York Post,

SUNY — which licenses charter schools — plans to demand more information from the high-performing Success Academy and other charter-school operators about their disciplinary and suspension policies before signing off on new charter applications or renewals.

. . . “Our focus is on making sure that suspensions and discipline are not being used improperly to encourage students to dis-enroll,” institute Director Susan Miller Barker said in a letter to Success Academy chairman Samuel Cole.

Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz said she is confident SUNY will find that Success Academy acted “quickly and decisively” at the Fort Greene school.

One of the SA’s first steps towards repairing its reputation was maintaining that the admitted “Got To Go” list was an isolated creation by SA Fort Greene principal Candido Brown and that it was eliminated within days of SA leaders finding out about it.

Brown initially fell on his sword, recently taking a leave of absence from the school. A rumor in the SA Fort Greene community that he has been reassigned to an SA Harlem branch as a teacher has not been confirmed; SA did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

Update (January 21, 2016): Brown’s reassignment to SA Harlem 1 as a third grade teacher has been confirmed by Capital New York.

Update (January 20, 2016): 

Adding to the trials facing SA is a new federal civil rights complaint filed by 13 parents/students and a slew of citywide officials and advocacy groups — a complaint that accuses the charter school of “systemic practices violating the rights of children with disabilities” via Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”).

All of the families involved in the complaint are not identified by name, although one of the clients is a nine-year-old girl at Success Academy Cobble Hill and another is a five-year-old boy at Success Academy Crown Heights.

Listed examples of rights violations include failure to provide referrals for initial evaluations or follow-up evaluations, written notification of students’ rights and procedural safeguards, and denial of occupational therapy and other services, as well as the repeated use of suspensions and calling of EMS and parents — allegedly as discrimination and retaliation for not dis-enrolling from the school as requested.

Officials involved in the complaint are:

Public Advocate Letitia James, NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm, Legal Services NYC, The Legal Aid Society,Partnership for Children’s Rights, MFY Legal Services, and New York Legal Assistance Group.

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