Parents win: Education Department agrees not to add charter school to Red Hook’s PS 15

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The city is backtracking on its plan to wedge a charter school inside a half-full Red Hook school, now saying that it is searching for another site for the newcomer academy.

The announcement came after parents, teachers and even the widow of the beloved former principal of PS 15, an elementary school on Sullivan Street, were outraged that they would have to cede classrooms to the PAVE Academy.

In case a different location isn’t found, Department of Education will meet with school officials and community leaders to gain acceptance for PAVE, which might still land in PS 15.

Councilmember Sara Gonzalez (D–Red Hook) said she brokered the delay with city officials.

“Initially, the DOE presented this as a fait accompli,” said Michael Schweinsburg, spokesman for Gonzalez. “Now they’ve stepped back from an entrenched position. That’s important.

Teachers say this is a good step.

“It looks like they’re trying to correct the way they went about things,” said one teacher requesting anonymity.

Parents don’t want the charter school in PS 15 because they say the loss of space jeopardizes the “A” grade that the school just earned on its city report card.

“The kids are going to lose out on a lot of the things they have now,” said Vicki LaSalle, a parent who was gathering signatures on her anti-charter school petition last week.

School Principal Peggy Wyns-Madison echoed that concern last week, telling parents that the charter school could increase class size — and small class size was one of the main reasons for the school’s success on the report card, she added.

But the city says the concern about class size is not valid. PS 15 — also known as the Daly School, in memory of its slain principal Patrick Daly — is only 54 percent full and has declining enrollment.

The Department of Education says such statistics indicate that there’s room for the 88-student PAVE Academy to take over four classrooms and one administrative room in September — and then two more classrooms in 2009.

In 2010, the PAVE Academy is expected to get its own facility elsewhere.

“We expect there to be no effect on class size” at PS 15, said Melody Meyer, a DOE spokeswoman.

The class size might stay the same, but the loss of space is still a burden, teachers said.

Currently, students go to different rooms for different subjects like math and social studies, giving teachers free time and a quiet space for prep work. They’ll lose that downtime in a shared school.

“The teachers are pretty much in an uproar,” said one teacher, who requested anonymity. “We have a lot of things to do in our prep time, grading papers, talking to colleagues, straightening the room.”

Sharing the building with the new charter school for two years might be an inconvenience to PS 15’s teachers, but the city says it’s a benefit for Red Hook families.

“The proposal gives families in Red Hook two great schools to choose from where they previously had one school,” Meyer told The Brooklyn Paper.

The debate over this charter school is a faint echo of last year’s boisterous battle over siting the Khalil Gibran International Academy — the city’s first Arabic language and culture school — in a Park Slope middle school. At the time, parents complained that their under-capacity school also did not have the space to accommodate a new middle school.

Parents in that battle prevailed, and the Gibran Academy was eventually housed in a Boerum Hill middle- and high-school complex. Parents and educators there accepted the Gibran Academy after the city agreed to provide some long-sought amenities — a bit of horsetrading that may be happening now at PS 15.

The PAVE Academy — the name stands for Perseverance, Achievement, Vibrance and Excellent Character — will start with just a kindergarten and a first grade in 2008, but will eventually be a K-8 school.

Last week, even Daly’s widow jumped into the debate, telling the Daily News that she did not think her husband would want the school that bears his name to be altered.

“When the school was down and out, the only person who cared about it was my husband,” Madeline Daly told the News. “He was a hands-on person. He was responsible for the school. I don’t think he would be too happy to share it.”

Daly was killed in a crossfire between two drug gangs 15 years ago.

But PAVE Academy founder Spencer Robertson sought common ground with the murdered educator’s legacy.

“My belief is that as an educator, he would want to see the school that now bears his name providing an outstanding education to as many children as possible,” Robertson said in a statement.

Updated 4:35 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

concerned from Red Hook says:
“The proposal gives families in Red Hook two great schools to choose from where they previously had one school,” Meyer told The Brooklyn Paper.

Yes, PS 15 IS a great school. The school's grade, student test scores, and overall student achievemnet attest to that. PAVE is NOT a great school b/c they have no track record!! You can't call a school "great" when you're basing it on the unknown future. PAVE is not even in it's infancy. The school needs to have it's own space if it desires greatness. Gloming onto the coattails of a scuccessful school is not the way to do it. Why don't they use the millions of dollars that Mr. Robertson's family has and buy their own buliding?
Feb. 25, 2008, 12:09 pm
grampire from red hook says:
are you kidding me? We all know what happens when a charter school siddles up to an existing public school. "incubating" for "only two years." The charter stays. And overtakes. Public education must remain public. Any school that is not at "capacity" runs the risk of a Charter school takeover. The BOE is determined to promote charter schools while leaving public schools floundering. Why isn't the UFT getting more involved in this charter school favoritism?
March 6, 2008, 12:46 am
Emily Brown from Red Hook says:
I absolutely hate the idea of my son's school being encroached on by a charter school. It's undemocratic, and it does NOT serve the interests of PS15, its students (including my son), or the community at large. The Department of Education's arrogant attitude needs to be checked before they do more damage.

I've set up a blog that contains a much more detailed exposition of why this entire issue is wrong-headed and destructive - please see

Please feel free to visit the blog and vote in the polls posted or comment on the postings there.

Emily Brown
March 8, 2008, 1:02 pm
Emily Brown from Red Hook says:
Spencer Robertson doesn't have a concrete plan for housing his school; in a recent meeting, he waffled on a variety of details ranging from where he actually wants PAVE Academy housed, how long the academy would actually stay if co-located at PS15, and seems not to understand that operating a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization is EXACTLY THE SAME as operating a business... the man may be idealistic about his own personal agenda, but he's outrageously out of touch with Red Hook as a neighborhood & community. Take a look at for more details.
March 17, 2008, 10:12 am
May 5, 2008, 5:24 am
mercedes from red hook says:
i think that our schools shouldnt have a charter school because ever since weve graduated from that school,it wasnt no problems now we have problems. ive graduating on 6/23/ name is Debrea Trotman
July 10, 2008, 5:47 pm
Chris from Virginia says:
I just want to say that I was a graduate from PS 15 in 1993, I remember Mr. Daly he was always pushing me to do better, I was always in his office:). Now I am 25 years old and a War Veteran currently working at the Pentagon as an Executive Level Computer Technician and I think Mr. Daly would be proud. PS 15 should remain the same, the school produces results and for anyone that knows who I am can vouch for that.
Aug. 27, 2008, 5:42 pm
EducateTheBabies from Red Hook says:
PS 15 is a "Grade A" school, which is wonderful, but they were very underpopulated. If the classrooms will not be used, why not have another potentially great school use them. Where is the harm?
Aug. 28, 2008, 9:09 pm

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