RELEASE: 200 Success Academy 4th Graders, Parents, and Educators Gather on City Hall Steps to Demand Justice From Mayor de Blasio
October 21, 2019
**For Immediate Release October 21, 2019**
200 SUCCESS ACADEMY 4TH-GRADERS, PARENTS, AND EDUCATORS GATHER ON CITY HALL STEPS TO DEMAND JUSTICE FROM MAYOR DE BLASIO
As Young Scholars Make Plea for Middle School in Queens, Mayor Rushes Silently Past
New York, NY — Today, more than 200 Success Academy 4th-grade scholars, parents, and educators gathered on the steps of City Hall to protest Mayor de Blasio’s delay in identifying a permanent middle school location for students from four Queens Success Academy elementary schools.
Success Academy families in Queens have been waiting for more than two years for a permanent middle school. When no location was made available for this school year as promised in 2017, parents stepped up their advocacy, phoning the mayor, writing and meeting with local Queens elected officials, and circulating a petition that gained almost 13,000 supporters. Three weeks ago, 4,000 parents, scholars, and educators rallied in protest in Roy Wilkins Park, Queens.
“We are here today to ask Mayor de Blasio to keep his promise,” said Eva Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools. “The promise he made at Riverside Church five years ago: to be the mayor of all children — to not discriminate against charter school children — and the promise he made two years ago: to give these Queens students a middle school.”
Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts scholars, Tiayna Harris and Kayla Montgomery, who were among the 194 middle school students Mayor de Blasio tried to evict from their middle school in 2014, spoke at the press conference in solidarity with their younger peers.
“Five years ago, I was part of the 194. I felt unimportant, disrespected, and invisible to the educational system,” said Tiayna Harris, a senior at Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts. “In truth, I was so visible, the mayor wanted me to be invisible.”
“When I heard that Mayor de Blasio was denying these kids in Queens a middle school,” Tiayna continued, “I thought: Again?”
Mayor de Blasio arrived at City Hall just as the press conference was ending at 10:30 am, walking hurriedly past the mostly black and Hispanic children, who were holding handmade signs, reading “I Want to Learn” and “Don’t Stop Me at 4th Grade.” His silent rebuff prompted a civics lesson from Moskowitz:
“Scholars, this is an important civics lesson because he walks right by you, not as Tiana said, because you are invisible,” said Moskowitz. “You are visible, you have self-determination. That’s why you’re here. You’re not going to be invisible, and we are going to stand together so you are visible not only now, but throughout your whole lives.”
Without a middle school, 227 children will be forced to leave Success Academy, where they are thriving. On last year’s New York State exams, 99% of these fourth graders passed math and 93% passed ELA. About 87% of students are children of color and 69% receive free and reduced-price lunch.
More than half of these 227 would go to their zoned schools — into 36 of the most overcrowded district schools in Southeast Queens. There are seven public school buildings with 450 to 1,000 empty seats, any one of which the city could use to serve these students.
Although the mayor has touted “equity and excellence” as central to his education policy, he has consistently denied and delayed in response to charter school requests for space, even though there are more empty seats in NYC public school buildings each year. According to the city’s most recent data, there are 110,000 available seats in 212 most underutilized buildings, up by 10,000 seats over the previous year.
Earlier this month, administration representatives convened a meeting with Success Academy, but failed to provide any meaningful information about a permanent site.
ABOUT SUCCESS ACADEMY CHARTER SCHOOLS
Founded in 2006, Success Academy Charter Schools are free public K-12 schools open to all children in the state through a random lottery. With 45 schools across Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, Success Academy enrolls 18,000 students, primarily children of color from low-income households in disadvantaged neighborhoods: 74% receive free or reduced-price lunch, 94% are students of color, 16% have disabilities, and 8% are English language learners. Success Academy schools received more than 17,000 applications for about 4,000 open seats for the 2019-20 academic year.
For more information about Success Academy, go to successacademies.org.