De Blasio will offer public space to some charter schools

Staff from Amber Charter School greet Mayor Bill de Blasio on a visit in September.

Updated 8:17 p.m. — The de Blasio administration will offer public school space to four charter schools, officials announced Wednesday, signaling an end to a space-sharing moratorium in place since de Blasio took office in January.

The schools include two Success Academy charter schools run by former City Council Member Eva Moskowitz, a political rival of de Blasio who has fought him over his space-sharing policies for months. The announcement is the first sign of how his administration will handle the state’s new charter-school law, which requires the city to provide new and growing charter schools with space in city-owned buildings or with rent money to operate in private space.

Establishing a “moratorium” on school co-locations has always been more of a campaign pledge for de Blasio than a concrete policy. In just his second month in office, de Blasio announced eight new space-sharing plans along with the framework of a process for gaining public feedback about the proposals. But the plans weren’t controversial and city officials said they would continue to hold off on more disruptive proposals.

Today’s announcement did not include details about where the schools would actually be located, or any details about the new co-location process that de Blasio has promised. And city officials said their timing was mostly motivated by a Thursday deadline to respond to requests for public space from the first two schools, Bronx Success Academy III and Bed-Stuy Success Academy I. Both elementary schools’ space-sharing plans, first approved by the Bloomberg administration, will expire at the end of the year.

“We’re encouraged that the administration wants to work with public charter schools and make sure parents have great options for their children, regardless of zip code,” Moskowitz said in a statement. “We look forward to getting more details.”

De Blasio has been outspoken about his objection to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s approach to siting charter schools in city-owned buildings, which critics said ignored feedback from parents and teachers at the affected schools. He also said he thought charter schools in public space should pay rent, and vowed that no new plans would be proposed until the city improved the process.

The passage of the new law, led by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was in part a rebuke of the mayor’s agenda, which some saw more as an effort to curtail the growth of charter schools. It also created a new dilemma for de Blasio, whose administration is now required to provide space or funding for it.

After legislation was enacted in April, charter schools began sending letters to the Department of Education requesting space in public schools. De Blasio could have ignored the requests, opting instead to pay for the schools to operate in private facilities. By telling charter schools that they’ll get access to city-owned buildings next year, de Blasio signaled that he’s willing to include them in his space-sharing vision for city’s 1,100-building school system.

In addition to the Success schools, the city said it would work to provide public space for two other schools that submitted requests in April: Bronx Charter School for Better Learning II, one of at least six approved to open next year, and Launch Expeditionary Learning Charter School in Brooklyn, which opened in 2012 but has run out of space in its current building. Both are members of the Coalition of Community Charter Schools, a group with much closer ties to de Blasio.

“This is another really good step forward and we’re very happy for the students these schools serve,” said New York City Charter School Center CEO James Merriman, whose organization has published guidance to help schools interpret the new legislation. “We’re confident we can make this law work for everyone.”

The city did tell one school that public space was not a possibility. Global Community Charter School, a school operating in private space in Harlem, was denied space because there was not enough room in city-owned buildings in the district, officials said.

Department officials have said that as many as two dozen charter schools had requested co-locations by July, including some schools in private space that are still adding grades. De Blasio will soon have to respond to space requests from those schools, as well as requests from at least 16 schools planning to open in 2015.


Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.