September 9, 2009
A gaggle of public officials and reporters weren’t the only ones crowding entrances to New York City public schools this morning. Students at Harlem Success Academy 2 were welcomed to school with protests over the use of their building space.
“No justice, no peace,” chanted roughly fifteen protesters as they circled in front of the 140th St. entrance of P.S. 123, where Harlem Success Academy principal Jim Manly and dean of students Khari Shabazz waited for their students to arrive. As students arrived for school, the two escorted them through the circle and into the building. Several smaller students dodged and weaved between demonstrators to get into the building and many looked upset and perplexed at the hubbub.
By around 8 a.m., the protesters moved several yards down the block so as not to directly block the entrance to the school. Demonstrators waved signs reading “stop privatization of public education” and “equality not privilege–support P.S. 123.” They also handed out fliers reading labeled “Separate and Unequal” and “The Truth About Charter Schools.”
P.S. 123 has become the symbol of a larger feud over the use of public school space for charter schools since Harlem Success Academy 2, a charter school, began sharing space with the district school last year.
Harlem Success Academy founder and executive director Eva Moskowitz smiled and welcomed her school’s parents and students as they arrived even while protesters waved signs calling her “Evil Moskowitz” several feet away. She dismissed the demonstrators as teachers’ union members resistant to school reform.
“They’ve been protesting us since the day we started–since even before we started,” she said. “They don’t want change. They don’t want great schools.”
Many Harlem Success Academy parents dropping their children off found it more difficult to ignore the protest. “I don’t understand why they’re here,” I heard several parents say.
“Why would you single out this school?” said Nina Carey, whose 5-year-old son began first grade at Harlem Success today. “They should be protesting with the DOE — not with these kids, not with these teachers.”
By 9 a.m., the protest outside of the school had dissipated. But demonstration organizers said they planned to be back at the close of Harlem Success Academy’s school day at 3:30 this afternoon.
UPDATE: The original version of this post incorrectly stated that Harlem Success Academy 2 students were arriving for their first day of school.