May 30, 2012
A judge has tossed out a parent lawsuit against a charter school set to open in Cobble Hill this fall, even as he agreed that the school could have done more to solicit community feedback.
In March, the parents filed suit against the city and Eva Moskowitz, CEO of the Success Charter Academies network, charging that they circumvented state education laws when they abruptly changed plans for the school late last year. Brooklyn Success Academy 3 — now renamed Cobble Hill Success Academy — was originally approved for either District 13 or District 14, but the city revised its proposal in late October and announced the school would instead move into a District 15 building.
The parents also argued that the charter network had not sufficiently consulted the local community before the school’s charter was approved. Their suit presented the network’s consultation efforts, which included gathering signatures of support and holding a handful of public meetings, as “feeble, bordering on a sham,” according to today’s ruling.
The State Supreme Court justice, Peter Moulton, ruled that the school’s move from District 13 to District 15 had not violated state law. And he rejected the claims that the Success network had not fulfilled the state’s community consultation requirement — a requirement that he said is “weak” because it does not identify who should be consulted, suggest a strategy for soliciting opinion, or bar schools that register fierce opposition from receiving charters.
“Petitioners are correct that Success Academy could have engaged in a more thorough-going canvas of the relevant neighborhoods in Brooklyn to surface concerns and opposition to BSA 3,” Moulton ruled. “However, the statute does not require that charter applicants conduct such an exhaustive survey of support and opposition.”
The decision clears the way for Cobble Hill Success to open this fall. Construction on the Baltic Street building, which currently houses two secondary schools and an elementary school for students with disabilities, has already been underway to prepare the site for the new addition.
The suit was “an unnecessary distraction,” Moskowitz said in a statement. “We’re excited to get back to the important work of providing NYC with a joyful and rigorous learning environment, training our teachers and opening our doors in August.”
A lawsuit against another school in Moskowitz’s network that is set to open this fall in Williamsburg is still open. That suit alleges that the network did not comply with outreach regulations, particularly around recruiting Spanish-speaking families from the neighborhood.
A suit that aimed to block a Success Academy on the Upper West Side last year was dismissed in mid-August after a judge ruled that local parents should have taken their co-location complaints to the state, not the courts.
The judge’s decision in the Cobble Hill suit is below.