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Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Harlem Success Academy Charter School Wants You

There seems to be a problem with the 'success' of the Harlem Success Academy Charter School. The staff is all leaving. See below for all the job openings, and the job descriptions. But parents want something better than the public school system (see pictures below of the overflowing auditorium for the charter lottery).

We know that an investigation was started in 2008 because of the rumor of $350,000 going to NEST+M from NY City Council when Eva Moskowitz was City Council Education Committee Chair, and the following september her son was accepted into the only k-12 gifted and talented citywide school in New York City. I wonder how that works....

What is it about Eva Moskowitz that attracts so many enemies?
by Elizabeth Green, Gotham Schools

Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez, who has done some seriously good work in the past [1], this week took his pistol-like investigative skills to the skull of charter school operator and eternal politician Eva Moskowitz — first in a story on the erosion of parent voices in the city schools [2], and then in a story on Moskowitz’s salary [3]. Gonzalez challenges the salary, which he reports as $371,000 last year (Moskowitz says the real figure is $250,000 plus a $60,000 bonus), suggesting that she should give some of her pay back to her charter schools.

This is hardly the first criticism that’s been thrown at Moskowitz, who previously served as the chair of the City Council’s education committee and ran for borough president of Manhattan, losing to Scott Stringer after the teachers union campaigned against her. As Gonzalez reports, her critics include “educators, parents, the teachers’ union and Harlem political leaders.”

Why’s there so much hate for a woman who has decided to spend her days starting schools for poor and mostly black children in Harlem? There are now many charter school operators in this city. Why focus on Moskowitz? I asked around today and collected three different theories:

1) This theory is the one that’s implicit in Gonzalez’s report: She deserves the scrutiny because she’s not what she claims. She claims that her charter schools are unfairly underfunded by the state — but then she rakes in a big salary herself. She similarly claims to want to improve public education — but then she goes along with a Department of Education plan to move her charter school into an existing public school, effectively allowing the city to go over the heads of parents and, as Gonzalez put it in an another piece this week [2], “rezone a public school.” (Only about 30 families will be displaced.)

2) The second theory comes by way of a charter school official who asked not to be named because he hadn’t shared his thoughts with Moskowitz. He told me that Moskowitz suffers a style problem. Rather than approaching the district public schools with respect, Moskowitz makes a habit of dismissing their work as unacceptable.

“‘You’re trash,’ is what the message is. ‘You’re trash, and get out of the way, because we know what to do and you don’t,’” the official said. “No person can say that. I don’t think any person has that authority. Especially someone who hasn’t run a successful school for more than a few years.” He said the better method, practiced by several other city charter schools, is to develop relationships of respect and trust, to work together rather than to fight the old system. “Even the KIPP people,who have a much logner track record of success, they speak with a level of humility,” the official said.

3) The third theory is Moskowitz’s own. She acknowledges that she doesn’t work in the same style as other charter school leaders might — but she thinks that’s a good thing. Here’s how she put it to me:

We have to always be respectful of people because being nice is the right thing to do and important, but I think we have a moral obligation to identify schools that are not working for kids, and unfortunately there are a lot of them. If that’s disrespectful – if saying that a school is failing is offensive – I think that we can’t be politically correct and sacrifice children in the process.

The result is that she’s willing and eager to declare schools as failures, and to urge that they be replaced with something new. And the result of that is a powerful challenge to the status quo that she says can mean a high price for her. “Even at considerable personal and professional cost, I’ve never been afraid to raise the bar and to do what I think is right for children and teaching and learning,” she said. “And that’s incredibly threatening.”

Norm Scott's blog posted the following:

Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Eva Moskowitz is Not Running a Lean Organization
Reprinted from the comments section at Gotham Schools

1. Eva Moskowitz is not running a lean organization. The proportion of “back office” educrats to teachers in her “network” is far far higher than she would let you believe. The proportion of non-instructional people in her network is also far higher than in the DOE. There are PR people and personal assistants for Eva.

2. The people hired by Eva Moskowitz have very little experience in education, unless you count attending school as a student. Find out the background of her “Directors of Curriculum” etc. Virtually no teaching experience.

3. The Harlem Success network does not spend money wisely. All employees get laptops but there are no computers for the students to use. Yes, they may have SmartBoards in the classrooms, but there are no desktops or laptops for student use.

4. Despite their claim to “hire the best” turnover has been very high. The principal of HSA 1 was fired the week before the 3rd grade ELA test.

5. The network is focused on PR stunts rather than their students. The NY Times piece on their Snow Day schedule is indicative. PR trumps student and teacher safety.
Posted by Norm @ ed notes online at 8:08 PM

From the website of HSA:

"Academics, Overview
Our mission is to ensure that every Harlem Success scholar graduates from college. In addition to literacy and math, we teach art, science five days a week, chess, writing, geography, social studies, dance, soccer, and more. If a child loves being in school, they will love learning.
Course offerings

Literacy and Math: Success for All
For literacy and math, we use Success for All, a program designed at Johns Hopkins University, that has produced astounding results in 1300 schools nationwide. Success for All equips educators with the necessary tools to provide students with an outstanding education.

The Success for All literacy curriculum is a phonics-based program with an emphasis on children's literature. Every eight weeks, the students are tested and are placed into literacy groups by ability rather than age to ensure that all children progress at the level that's right for them. If a first grade student has mastered first grade level reading content, he or she will join a second grade literacy group. If a first grade student is struggling with the material, he or she will receive one-on-one tutoring from highly-skilled professionals.

MathWings, the Success for All math curriculum uses hands-on materials to engage students and give them a strong math foundation. Students are assessed every three to four weeks to ensure that all students are given the support they need to master the content and move forward.

Monitoring Student Progress: Data and Ongoing Assessment
All students are tested when they walk into the building so we can identify their starting point, track their growth, and make academic interventions in real-time. Monitoring student progress is an ongoing activity in all Harlem Success classrooms.

Harlem Success students take science five days a week, for an hour each day, beginning in kindergarten. In schools around the country, science has taken a back seat to literacy and math, subjects that many would consider a prerequisite for all other learning.

In Executive Director Eva Moskowitz's (she is pictured above) report for the City Council's Education Committee, "Lost in Space: Science Education in New York City Public Schools" she writes, "Long before they can read, children ask endless questions - Why is the sky blue? Where does snow come from? - that can and should be explored in science class. Children love to experiment, and they love to ask questions, but our schools have not capitalized on this natural curiosity."

Harlem Success' science curriculum capitalizes on this curiosity. The curriculum takes a hands-on, discovery approach to learning science. Children conduct experiments and are encouraged to observe and ask questions about the world around them. We don’t read about frogs, we dissect them.

Harlem Success encourages all students to think ahead. Chess teaches strategy and higher-order thinking. Harlem Success' chess instructor extraordinaire Carlos Sanchez began teaching chess in the year 2000 in New York City public schools and has helped more than 6000 students discover and learn the fun game of chess. Of his teaching skills, Mr. Sanchez says, "I feel that great sense of awe and inspiration knowing my students have a million questions for me because when I walk into a classroom. I AM ALSO READY TO LEARN!"

Visual Arts
While Harlem Success emphasizes rigorous academics and discipline, we also encourage creativity—and our art program is thriving. Arts education at Harlem Success gives all children the ability to express themselves, draw meaning from the world around them, develop their unique personalities, appreciate great works of art, and perhaps most important, enjoy school. Student art work is showcased throughout the hallways to instill pride and to create a welcoming school environment.

Geography and Social Studies
At Harlem Success we prepare children not just for success on tests, but for success in life. We teach geography and social studies to give children an understanding of the world around them.

Physical Education
All students engage in physical activity everyday. Students take dance, soccer and basketball to learn discipline and exercise their bodies. In addition to twice-weekly soccer instruction, Harlem Success scholars have intramural soccer games several weekends per year.

"Harlem Success Academy Charter Schools.
In August 2006, amidst great anticipation, Harlem Success Academy 1 opened its doors to 150 Kindergarten and 1st grade students from the Harlem community. Since then, Harlem Success Academy has expanded its reach to nearly 1000 students by launching 3 more schools in 2008 and advancing to 3rd grade in its flagship. All schools operated by Harlem Success seek to prepare and inspire urban students from low-income neighborhoods for college with an ambitious program that develops character and encourages critical thinking.

The program.
Harlem Success Academies invest in children early. From the moment our Kindergartners walk through our doors and enter our lively classrooms, they become scholars on the road to college graduation. Every moment in school is seized as an opportunity for learning: scholars are encouraged to follow the wise words of Dr. Seuss and "Go Beyond Z" in all aspects of their lives, and faculty is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to ensure academic success. Our student achievement outcomes attest to our belief in the idea that every child can succeed. After only 2.5 years in operation, our first school, Harlem Success Academy 1, has dramatically increased reading and math scores for our students. It has also produced an unparalleled school culture that served as a template for 3 new Harlem Success Academies launched in August 2008. We seek to reform public education in NYC by launching 30-40 high-performing Success Academies in low-income neighborhoods in 10 years.

Welcome to Harlem Success Academy Charter School's
Online Application Process

Join Our Team

To establish a complete pre-employment file, please complete the online application. Your application will be retained in active status for one school year. If your qualifications meet our needs, we will contact you for further information and a possible interview.

Please note: If you apply for any instructional position, you will be required to provide information in your application regarding your teaching experience including certification status and a lesson plan of your own design.

Choose an option below.

* View our open positions

Teacher quality is the single most important factor in a child’s education. For our founding faculty, we scouted teaching talent from around the country. We selected our 13 founding faculty members from an applicant pool of 1700.

At Harlem Success, we seek to unleash the full potential of our teachers. Our teachers are part of the brain trust that makes this school great. Harlem Success teachers are dedicated professionals who provide excellent instruction, design intelligent curriculum, analyze real-time student performance data, and work collaboratively to raise the bar for student achievement.

Harlem Success currently has positions open for teachers, instructional leadership, school management team, interns and volunteers."

28 positions open at the Harlem Success location. Staff turnover is very high, showing that all is not smooth sailing at the charter school.

Here is "The School Culture" webpage:

School Culture

You can tell from the moment that you walk into a school whether the adults in the building care about kids, whether the kids love being in school, and whether everyone is focused on achieving a set of common goals. That is what we call school culture.

At Harlem Success, the teachers and staff care deeply about our students and work tirelessly to ensure their success. The hallways are safe, clean, quiet and filled with colorful student work.

College Graduation:
We all know, it takes a lot to get to college. For kindergartners, college may seem like a distant concept, and may have less meaning for them than the Way 2 Go! sticker they get for helping a classmate. How do we teach kindergartners to set college as a goal for themselves? We begin by referring to their class by the year they will graduate from college. They will forever remember that they are the college graduating class of 2022, 2023, and so on. We also refer to their classrooms by the college that their teacher went to.

Beyond Z:
Our kids know we have high expectations because we ask them to go “Beyond Z” everyday. In the timeless children’s book, On Beyond Zebra, Dr. Seuss urges his young readers to think what possibilities may lie beyond the letter “z” if you work hard enough, are creative enough, and are open to what might not immediately meet the eye. Each day, our scholars work hard to go “Beyond Z.”

A Harlem Success Scholar goes “Beyond Z” if he or she acts in accordance with our core A.C.T.I.O.N values – Agency, Curiosity, to Try & Try, Integrity, Others and No Shortcuts. We teach our scholars to take responsibility for their own actions, to always ask questions, to work harder today than yesterday, to be honest and trustworthy, to be a nice and thoughtful member of their community and to never look for the easy way out.

Parent Involvement and “The Contract”:
If you ask a Harlem Success parent whether we have high expectations, and whether we place their children’s achievement at the very top of our list, we’re sure you’ll hear a resounding YES!

Harlem Success parents care deeply about their children’s success and go “Beyond Z” to achieve our common goals. Our parents and students sign “The Contract” and commit to coming to school everyday, on time, dressed in uniform, ready to learn. We are strict about attendance because to us, every minute of instruction counts. We continuously review our school schedule to be sure we are making the most efficient use of our time. We are strict about uniforms because we want all energies focused on student performance – not on who has the latest sneakers.

Former City Council member Eva Moskowitz makin' a bundle at nonprofit schools
Friday, February 27th 2009, 12:32 AM

Ex-Council member Eva Moskowitz made $371,000 for running four charter academies, more than Chancellor Joel Klein got for running 1,400 city schools. Costanza for News

Eva Moskowitz, the former City Council member who founded a small chain of nonprofit charter schools, is a passionate and abrasive champion of the charter school movement.

She's also making a bundle.

Moskowitz, who makes no secret of her desire to create 40 charter schools across the city and run for mayor some day, raked in $371,000 in salaries in the 2006-2007 school year from organizations connected to her four schools, tax records show.

Those schools, Harlem Success Academy 1, 2, 3 and 4, have an enrollment of about 1,000 pupils, from kindergarten to third grade.

The nonprofit organizations connected to the schools have yet to file more recent tax returns, but Moskowitz said in an interview late Thursday she received $310,000 last year - the 2007-2008 year - $250,000 in salary and $60,000 in a bonus.

That means Moskowitz, who is responsible for four schools, makes more than Chancellor Joel Klein, who gets $250,000 to run 1,400 schools.

In 2006-2007, she even surpassed John Ryan, the former chancellor of the State University of New York, who earned $340,000 to manage some 70 campuses with nearly 300,000 students.

Needless to say, she left your run-of-the-mill public school principal, with an average annual salary of $124,000, in the dust.

Tax records show in her first year of operation Moskowitz made $85,000 as executive director of Harlem Success Academy, the group that receives DOE money to operate the charter schools.

At the same time, she received $186,000 as chief executive officer of the Success Charter Network, a separate nonprofit that provides "management services" to her schools.

Finally, she received $100,000 as an "independent contractor" for Friends of Gotham Charter School, which provides support finances for Harlem Success.

All three organizations share an address and list as officers Joel Greenblatt and John Petry, the millionaire hedge fund managers who bankrolled the Success Charter Network.

Moskowitz said her unusually high pay for 2006-2007, included compensation for months of planning work from the previous year.

"Yes, I earn a good living," Moskowitz said. "I also have an enormous responsibility to try and design 40 schools that are immensely successful. If your child walks into my school, I treat them like my child."

Charter schools are free to use the money they raise from outside sources any way they see fit - even if that means huge salaries for the chief executive.

Given that Moskowitz routinely complains that the Department of Education has failed to provide a fair share of funding for her students, it's fair to ask why she's paying herself so much for educating so few. Charters get about 90% of what it costs to teach each child and raise funds for additional money.

Parents from Moskowitz's schools vehemently defend the Harlem Success Academy and say their kids are making phenomenal progress. That could very well be true, but the DOE has not posted independent test results for any of the Moskowitz schools.

Her critics, who include educators, parents, the teachers' union and Harlem political leaders, say she is a relentless self-promoter.

They say she is not shy about packing public meetings with a parent group she has organized, and then demanding that other public schools give up their space to make way for her programs.

"We had one meeting in East Harlem last year where she bused in her [students'] parents, and the situation got ugly and tense as they kept demanding space in our school," said one East Harlem community leader.

This week, more than 500 parents from the Harlem Success Academy were bused to a hearing at Public School 241 in West Harlem, a school the DOE wants to phase out and turn over to Moskowitz.

"We're unwilling to accept failure," Moskowitz said. "PS 241 has failed for years on end, and it needs to change."

Parents who send their children to 241, along with the local Community Education Council, say the DOE is violating the law by eliminating a zoned public school and replacing it with a charter.

November 4, 2008
Charter School Chief Keeps a Hand in Politics

A recent 14-hour day in the life of Eva S. Moskowitz — former city councilwoman, someday mayoral aspirant, current chief of a fast-growing chain of Harlem charter schools — began with a metal bowl of nectarines. “Is it possible,” Ms. Moskowitz asked a cafeteria worker in the urgent tone familiar from her City Hall hearings, “to get the fruit on something lower?”

After ensuring that the smallest children could see one of their healthier breakfast options, Ms. Moskowitz, 44, moved on to weightier issues: advising a novice principal on how to approach a testy parent, figuring out who should replace a first-grade teacher who quit, arguing about the city’s methods for doling out space to charter schools. She zipped from school to school to cocktail party, all in four-inch patent-leather heels and juggling a latte, cellphone and the BlackBerry on which she routinely shoots pointed notes to city officials.

“It is the accumulation of the hundreds of minute decisions that is the difference between mediocrity and true excellence,” read a recent 14-paragraph Moskowitz message to a senior Education Department employee that began about scheduling difficulties but became broadly philosophical. “We at Harlem Success literally go for perfection.”

This is the woman (pictured at right) who, during four years of running the City Council Education Committee, agitated the bureaucracy and the teachers’ union alike with exhaustive hearings on the dearth of science classes, the restrictions of the union contract and, famously, the matter of why so many school bathrooms seemed perpetually to lack toilet paper. Now, with the zeal of a bureaucracy-busting superhero, Ms. Moskowitz has channeled her interests in matters mind-bending and minute into the Success Charter Network, which started in 2006 with Harlem Success Academy 1, added three more schools this summer and plans to expand to 40 over a decade.

“She could be looked at as a lightning rod or a zealous advocate,” said Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright, a Democrat who represents Harlem.

“You can initiate, you can start, you can maintain a charter school and not be so controversial,” he added. “I think the jury is still out. If our kids are educated, the proof will be in the pudding, and educated kids speak for themselves.”

It is, indeed, too early to assess her success; the first school will face standardized tests for the first time this year (and therefore has not yet received a letter grade under the Bloomberg administration’s new accountability system). But the network has drawn unusual attention from parents, politicians and philanthropists.

This spring, the schools received 3,600 applications for 600 slots, and 5,000 people, including Gov. David A. Paterson and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, attended the highly orchestrated admissions lottery, where parents wept tears of joy as their children’s names were drawn. Ms. Moskowitz and her board of directors have raised $9 million in private donations to support the growing network, though they plan to have each school survive on public dollars by its third year.

Crucial to the intrigue is Ms. Moskowitz herself, since those who make and critique education policy rarely trade in their gavels for daily work with real children in real schools where even the perfect plan can go awry — as it did the other day, when a kindergartner wet himself on the office floor just as a mayor from Rhode Island arrived for a tour.

Charters, which are publicly financed but independently operated, are rarely run by politicians, which is perhaps why Ms. Moskowitz sees her job as not just to create a model network of schools, but also to change city and state policy.

And Ms. Moskowitz — whose $250,000 salary, paid for with private money, matches the chancellor’s — is not just the chief executive, she is also a parent. Her son, a sweet-faced redhead, is a kindergartner at Harlem Success 3, one of the very few white students in a set of schools where virtually all children are black or Hispanic, and roughly three-quarters are poor.

Critics say Ms. Moskowitz, who openly discusses the possibility of running for mayor someday, is more politician than educator (although she taught history at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and the College of Staten Island before running for City Council in 1997), and accuse her of expanding the charter schools too quickly. Each school started with kindergarten and first grades, and each plans to add a grade every year through middle school; Ms. Moskowitz hopes to open three or four new schools in 2010.

With such rapid expansion, staffing is a critical challenge: As at most other city charters, Harlem Success teachers are not unionized, and work a longer school day and year than those at traditional public schools. Within the flagship school’s first few months, the assistant principal and two teachers were let go. Five of last year’s 20 primary classroom teachers did not return this year, and turnover has been high among the largely 20-something back-office staff.

“Between law school, not liking New York and the boyfriends, we could be out of business tomorrow,” Ms. Moskowitz said in frustration. Congratulating her staff on a smooth start of school, she also cautioned them: “Opening schools and running them at a high level are two very different things. And that’s really going to be the hard part.”

Attention to Details

A tour through Ms. Moskowitz’s schools is like a nostalgia trip through her Council Education Committee agendas. Hearings on the lack of science classes have translated into all Harlem Success students having science every day. Hearings on the lack of technology inspired EduTube, on which teachers post videos of model lessons.

Each school’s operations manager — one of several positions Ms. Moskowitz created to keep principals focused on teaching instead of paperwork — makes the rounds each morning to, among other things, make sure each bathroom has toilet paper, documenting those that do not with digital cameras.

These are also schools clearly run by a mother. Mindful of the time it takes to tie tiny shoelaces, Ms. Moskowitz mandates Velcro footwear. The fact that her son Culver barely spoke at age 3 but played chess by 4 is behind the school’s policy of teaching chess to every child.

She describes the Harlem Success educational philosophy as a mix of the liberal Bank Street College of Education approach and the traditional Catholic school model. In an age when kindergarten is increasingly academic, and many urban charter schools have taken a militaristic approach to learning, the Harlem Success kindergartens have dress-up corners, water-activity tables and Legos but also use the highly scripted Success for All reading curriculum and embrace standardized tests. Even kindergartners take TerraNova exams in literacy and math, in January and May.

Sheree Thomas, 36, plays the “Rocky” theme song before her third graders’ test-prep sessions: “They know he tried, they know he got beat down, and they know he triumphed,” she said.

Since the first school opened in 2006, the curriculum has been a work in progress. Officials are rethinking how their students are taught writing, and Ms. Moskowitz was clearly exasperated while recently reviewing responses to a practice test, in which third graders were asked to read a passage about a family’s berry-picking expedition, then predict what might happen next.

“Some one told there berries,” read one of the more inadequate answers — a testament to the learning that must still take place. Concerned that part of the problem was teachers’ and administrators’ low expectations, Ms. Moskowitz ordered a staff member to collect third-grade writing samples from the prestigious Brearley School.

Hardball, on a New Field

Even as she parades through school hallways instead of City Hall, Ms. Moskowitz still operates like a politician, and still plays hardball.

She has had particularly rocky relationships with some of the traditional public schools that house her charters. Last spring, she referred to the fight to house a Harlem Success school inside Public School 123 as a “Middle East war” (she later apologized). When P.S. 123 officials repeatedly refused to open three locked closets in a Harlem Success section of the building, Ms. Moskowitz hired a locksmith, an incident that has entered Harlem Success lore as “closetgate.”

In lobbying for her own needs and the broader charter school agenda downtown and in Albany, one of Ms. Moskowitz’s most powerful tools is Harlem Success parents, whom she helped organize into a group called Harlem Parents United. They showed up en masse last spring at public hearings regarding Harlem Success’s bids for space in public school buildings; the outpouring, and the result, was very different from what happened in the spring of 2006, when public outcry led the department to backtrack on its initial plans for placing Harlem Success 1.

Ms. Moskowitz’s relationship with Chancellor Klein, who spoke at a recent Harlem Success fund-raiser, has improved since the days when she derided the Education Department’s lack of transparency to the point of threatening subpoenas. But while the Bloomberg administration prides itself on running one of the nation’s most charter-friendly districts, Ms. Moskowitz continues to push. The day that began with the ill-placed fruit bowl, for instance, ended at a cocktail party, where Ms. Moskowitz grilled Michael Thomas Duffy, Mr. Klein’s top aide for charter schools, over the city’s formula for allocating space to charters.

Mr. Duffy, in an interview, conceded that conversations with Ms. Moskowitz can run “hot”; he recounted his early days in the job, when what he thought would be a 45-minute get-to-know-you turned into a two-hour meeting dominated by her frustration at not being able to obtain potential students’ contact information. “She dispensed with the niceties pretty quickly,” he said.

Nevertheless, Mr. Duffy described the Harlem Success lottery this spring as a “watershed event,” saying “it seemed to crystallize an understanding of the permanency of charter schools in the city, that there’s no going back.”

Winning Parents Over

There are now 78 charter schools in New York City, with 24,000 students, up from 17 schools with 3,200 students in 2002. A disproportionate number of the schools, 21, are in Harlem, a fact that has irked some and thrilled others. The Success Network was created by Joel Greenblatt and John Petry, business partners at Gotham Capital, a Manhattan hedge fund, who chose the location because, as Mr. Petry put it in an e-mail message, “many/most of the Harlem schools have underperformed for years, if not decades.”

Ms. Moskowitz grew up at 118th Street and Morningside Drive, then moved to the Upper East Side. After a failed bid for Manhattan borough president in 2005, she was hired to run Success and moved back to Harlem, buying a condominium within a 10-minute walk of three of the schools.

She demands a lot from Harlem Success parents: They must read their children six books a week, year round, and attend multiple school events, from soccer tournaments to Family Reading Nights. If children are repeatedly late, the parents must join them to do penance at Saturday Academy.

Nefertiti Washington, 28, whose son is a kindergartner, said some parents walked out of a springtime information session when Ms. Moskowitz made her expectations clear by saying, “If you know you cannot commit to all that we ask of you this year, this is not the place for you.”

Ms. Washington and Katrina Young, 43, who swapped tales at a recent Family Reading Night on their sons’ rapid transformation into bookworms, said they welcomed the opportunity to be involved, and described the schools as a godsend. Ms. Washington recalled opening a book one evening, only to have her son demand, “Mommy, who is the illustrator?”

Ms. Moskowitz said she and her husband, a lawyer, thought hard about where to send their middle child to school; their older son is in fifth grade at a public gifted program, and their younger daughter is in a Jewish Community Center preschool.

The couple ruled out private school for financial and ideological reasons, she said, and were wary of traditional public schools because of their belief that the union contracts she railed against during her City Hall days allow mediocre teachers to remain in classrooms. In the end, they picked Harlem Success because she believes in what she is building.

“When I honestly assessed where the instruction was phenomenal,” she said, “it was at my own schools.”

Public School 123 space spat pits Eva Moskowitz against Harlem parents
BY ERIN EINHORN, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER, Tuesday, April 1st 2008, 4:00 AM

A former city councilwoman is gearing up for what she's calling a "Middle East war" over classroom space for her charter school.

"Dividing land ain't pretty," said Eva Moskowitz, the former chairwoman of the Council's Education Committee who now heads the Harlem Success Academy.

Like many of those running the publicly funded, privately run charters that have taken up residence in a portion of an existing public school, Moskowitz has her eye on classrooms in Public School 123 on W. 140th St. in Harlem for one of three new charters she plans to open in September.

And like many schools across the city that have faced the prospect of sharing their gyms, cafeterias, auditoriums and hallway space with a new school, the parents at PS 123 aren't having it.

"We have three lunch periods already, starting at 10:30 a.m.," said PS 123's PTA president, Antoinette Hargrove. "We've had so many improvements here. We don't want to see everything we've worked hard for going down the drain."

Hargrove is marshaling as much support as she can among parents at her school and community leaders in Harlem to block the charter, mirroring the kinds of protests that have often sprung up across the city when new schools are announced for existing buildings.

Though hundreds of new schools have settled into old buildings without incident - city officials say 280 new schools, including 45 charters, have been created since 2002, with as many as 70 more expected to open in September - there are loud, contentious fights at schools around the city every year.

What makes this battle different is Moskowitz and her plan to fight back.

She plans to bring "hundreds" of parents who support her charter to a meeting between PS 123 families and city officials scheduled for tonight.

"This time, there is another side," she said. "To me, the public policy issue here is that this is a public school building, a public resource. I would argue that it's owned by the citizens of New York and it's supposed to be used in the best interest of children."

School officials say PS 123 has only 581 students in a building designed for more than 1,000 kids, but Hargrove counters that the population fluctuates because of nearby shelters.

"They're not giving us extra funds for these shelter children," Hargrove said. "Instead, they're bringing in [charters]. ... Soon, there's going to be no more public schools."