Jamillah Cooper, a parent at the Tech International Charter School, says she will work to keep the school open, despite its plan to close at the end of June. She talks about how much her daughter loves the school and the teachers, and how she wants to keep the child in that supportive environment. Along with some other parents, Cooper organized a petition, which has gathered 80 signatures, to keep the school, which comprises grades six through eight, open.
But the lack of support from community leaders may have made the prospect more difficult.
“I am not going to lend my name to keeping a school open that is failing academically—that’s failing miserably and has for a number of years now,” Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said in a phone interview. He said he empathizes with the parents and students who want Tech International to remain open, but will defer to the decision of the “educational experts who made the determination that the school should be closed.”
Another local leader, Councilman Andrew Cohen, offered similar views. “It’s SUNY that makes these determinations as to whether or not to close charter schools,” Cohen was quoted as saying by his spokesperson.
After learning of Tech International’s impending closing, Dinowitz raised the issue on Jan. 10 at a town hall meeting with Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina and sent a follow up letter dated Jan. 23, asking the Education Department to look into the possibly securing Tech International’s space at 3120 Corlear Ave. for the area’s public schools to alleviate overcrowding. He suggested that it could be used for the Milton Fein School (P.S. 7), located one block away, or the Spuyten Duyvil School (P.S. 24), which recently lost its annex space.
Cooper said Dinowitz’s decision was hardly a surprise. She accused the assemblyman of failing to care enough about the petition, adding, however: “I respect his decision.”
“His job as an assemblyman is to serve the community and do good service to those who need his help, no matter... how hard a problem may be,” Cooper said in an email.
Meanwhile, the Tech International website lists a PTA meeting scheduled for March 13. It was not clear when the listing was posted, but Lucy Lamont, president of the Tech International parents’ association, said on March 2 she was not aware of any more parent meetings being planned.
“I haven’t heard anything at all,” she said.
In a 2015-2016 school evaluation report, SUNY listed some of the concerns it had about the school. The report referenced data from the 2014-2015 school year—a period before the schools latest principal, Ryan McCabe, took over.
“Inadequate organizational capacity has been apparent since Tech International’s first year of operation,” stated the report. It added that an audit letter to the school listed “deficiencies that require corrective action,” which included “special education billing mistakes/lack of process… [and] a lack of fiscal oversight by the board as evidenced by approximately $400,000 shortfall in 2014-2015.”
The report also says the school was failing to meet its academic performance goals for English and math.
A total of 335 approved charter schools operated in New York State as of December 2016. About 9 percent of all charter schools do not get their charters renewed because they fail to meet SUNY standards, according to the state university’s data.