Success Academy Queens middle schoolers hold Zoom press conference, plead with the mayor to honor his promise to give them a school
**For Immediate Release March 24, 2021**
Michael Sherman, 201-306-9621
Sam Chafee, 401-368-5124
For the full recording of the Zoom press conference see the following link:
New York, NY — Today, Success Academy Hollis Middle School students and Principal Kaleigh Maines held a Zoom press conference to beg Mayor Bill de Blasio to provide them with a school next year. The students and principal were joined by their teachers and parents.
The 250 students — 91% Black and Hispanic, many from low-income families — are among the highest performing students in Queens, but won’t be able to continue their education with Success Academy if the mayor continues to deny them a location.
“I feel devastated that the mayor is taking away our school because it is a safe place where we can learn and grow our mind, and the Mayor is just taking it away even though we deserve the building,” said Ayden Brotherson, Fifth Grade Scholar.
“The mayor is once again choosing politics over his moral obligation to kids,” said Jack DelPriore, Rising Assistant Principal. “He chose this responsibility — he said he would take care of all kids, but he’s not. He promised us a school, and is going back on that promise — at the detriment of our scholars.”
“What Hollis means to me is great education,” said Azad Basdeosingh, Fifth Grade Scholar. “I don’t think it’s fair, because now every kid in Hollis Middle School won’t have a school to go to.”
On March 12, Mayor de Blasio effectively kicked the students out on the street, by failing to meet the deadline to renew the school’s temporary co-location at I.S. 238 in Hollis. Due to the pandemic, SA Hollis MS students have not been able to use the eight classrooms allotted to them, and need only four additional rooms to accommodate incoming students for next year. The Department of Education claims that with the addition of a new District 75 school, there is no room for SA Hollis students in Building Q238, but an analysis of current enrollment and utilization of the space tells a different story: with a few simple adjustments, all three schools could fit in the building for another year.
As far back as 2017, the de Blasio administration indicated it would provide SA Queens students with a permanent middle school (see letter from DOE). More recently, in October of 2019, Mayor de Blasio told NY1, “When the DOE says to these schools, ‘We’re gonna have a space for you,’ they live by it” (Inside City Hall with Errol Louis, 7:20). Since then the mayor has changed his script, and has said Success Academy must provide its own building, even though there are several other buildings in this area of Queens with more than 500 unused seats. The city is responsible for providing space to public charter schools, per New York state Education Law §2853(3)(e)(1), despite the mayor’s claim to the contrary, and that public school space exists in buildings Q072, Q400, and Q490. And if the DOE does not provide public school space, the law also requires that it provides alternative public or private facilities at no cost to the school.
“Our teachers have worked incredibly hard to build genuine relationships with their students and families, and we’ve created a true sense of pride and connection to our school, even online. For us, Hollis is not just a building and classrooms, it’s a community — and now we’re on the verge of losing it. Mayor de Blasio is about to take our school, which we built, away from us,” said Principal Kaleigh Maines.
“The idea that after this grueling year of remote learning, that they won’t be able to return to Success Academy because the Mayor won’t provide them a building, is unacceptable. Please, Mr. Mayor, we need you to step up and give these kids the school you promised them,” said Michelle Mitchell, 5th Grade ELA Lead.
“Online school has been pretty hard for me, so I really wanted to go to the building because it’s in person — which is better than online school because it’s easier for me to pay attention — so I was upset when I heard we weren’t going to get our building,” said Elijah Montero, Fifth Grade Scholar.
By state law, the Mayor is obligated to offer a co-located site in a building approved by the Panel for Education Policy or to secure a private facility at no cost to the public charter school.
ABOUT SUCCESS ACADEMY
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 47 schools across Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, Success Academy enrolls 20,000 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. In 2020, 100% of SA’s third and largest class of 99 graduating seniors were accepted to college, with 22% accepted to highly selective and 47% to selective institutions, with robust financial aid packages; 82% of the class will be the first in their families to attend college.