New York City Invites Stakeholders to Right School Co-locations

April 4, 2014 2:07 pm Last Updated: April 4, 2014 2:07 pm

NEW YORK—A group of principals, parents, and non-profit representatives were invited by the New York City Education Department to figure out better way how to co-locate schools, that is to move multiple schools into one building.

Called a school space working group, the team has 24 members plus four city officials as leaders and facilitators, including Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Deputy Mayor Richard Buery. The members were announced on April 4.

Co-locations started to be heavily used by the Bloomberg administration. The intention was to split large troubled schools into smaller ones that would be easier to manage, at the same time providing more choices for students.

Yet many times the practice caused frictions among the co-located schools.

The city uses a manual called the “Blue Book” to assess how much students can a school building accommodate. But the manual was criticized for overstating the capacity and turning, science rooms, art rooms, and rooms for special needs students into regular classrooms.

The Education Department already created a team to review the Blue Book. The school space working group should complement the team, but focus more on the procedure of co-location, rather than how is the free space calculated.

The procedure was troubled too. Some co-locations were pushed through over a massive opposition from parents, especially when a charter school was to co-locate. Some charter schools would bring in their own sets of rules, sometimes conflicting with what other schools in the building were used to.

Some charters would also bring in private money. They would generously renovate and furnish their spaces, making at times neglected state of public school facilities bitterly stand out.

The working group has some charter school representatives, most prominently David Levin, Co-Founder of the KIPP charter network. KIPP operates 10 schools in the city. Another member is Joanne Mejias, principal at Manhattan Charter School II.

The Success Academy network, the biggest charter operator in the city with 22 schools, is not represented in the group. The operator was not approached to join the group, according to Ann Powell, Senior Managing Director of Communications at Success Academy Charter Schools. Powell didn’t have any further comment.

On the other hand, the group includes some vocal critics of charter schools, notably Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director at the Alliance for Quality Education, a teachers union-backed advocacy organization.

Still, the goal is to find a common ground and work together. “We can’t keep fighting each other. It’s counterproductive to our children,” commented Miriam Aristy-Farer, a member of the group and president of the District 6 Community Education Council.

She said she was excited about the initiative. “This is work that is long overdue,” she said. “It’s a sensitive topic in this city, but if we stay true to what our focus should be – all the children – it should be an interesting working group.”

Aristy-Farer has yet to learn when is the first meeting of the group going to be.

Complete Listing of the School Space Working Group: 

Carmen Fariña, Chancellor, New York City Department of Education
Richard Buery, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives

Tom Taratko, Executive Director, Office of Space Planning of the Department of Education
Michaela Daniel, Senior Policy Advisor to the Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives

Sandra D’Avilar, Principal, P.S. 9
Joanne Mejias, Principal, Manhattan Charter School II
Roshone Ault, Principal, South Bronx Academy for Applied Media
Joseph Canale, Principal, CSI High School for International Studies
RoseAnn Darche, former Special Assistant for Education, Office of the Queens Borough President
Bob Hughes, President, New Visions for Public Schools
Richard Kahan, Founder & CEO, Urban Assembly
David Levin, Co-Founder, KIPP
Emary Aronson, Managing Director, Robin Hood Foundation
Michele Cahill, Vice President, National Programs, Carnegie Corporation of New York
Maggie Moroff, Special Education Policy Coordinator, Advocates for Children and Coordinator, ARISE Coalition
Gloria Corsino, President, District 75 Community Education Council
Miriam Aristy-Farer, President, District 6 Community Education Council
Alim Gafar, Co-Chair, Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Committee
Isaac Carmignani, Co-President and Zoning Chair, District 30 Community Education Council
Eric Greenleaf, member of Speaker Silver’s Overcrowding Taskforce and Professor of Marketing at NYU’s Stern School of Business
David Umansky, CEO, Civic Builders
Adam Flatto, President, The Georgetown Company
Jonathan Gyurko, President, Leeds Global Partners and former official, NYC Department of Education and United Federation of Teachers
Ellie Engler, Director of Staff, United Federation of Teachers
Burt Sacks, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, City University of New York
Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director, Alliance for Quality Education
Maria Fernandez, Coordinator, Urban Youth Collaborative
Luis Garden Acosta, President, El Puente