A Joint Hearing scheduled for Thursday evening for the colocation of a new charter school for just released incarcerated students and other "disconnected youth" was abruptly cancelled by the proposed school. A Charter School Association representative stated that the failure of the new proposed charter to obtain a principal caused the sudden withdrawal for the application while others understood that the pressure by local civic leaders and Aspirations High School staff brought to bear was too much for the DOE and the proposed Charter.
The building at 1495 Herkimer Street in Brownsville was converted from a sewing factory in the early 1990's and was the home for neighborhood school, EBC/ENY High School for Public Service and Law until its closing for poor management and performance by the Klein administration. In 2008 Aspirations High School, a transfer school for under-credited and over-aged high school students was opened in the building to occupy one half of the space. The remaining space left by the vacating EBC/ENY High School was then offered to Roads Charter School, a school for newly released incarcerated students.
Roads, which boasted new teacher salaries of up to $100,000 per year and a plan to take over large parts of the building, concerned the staff at Aspirations and others. The UFT Chapter at Aspirations voted, almost unanimously, to oppose the new charter. Community leaders and some parents also recognized that the proposed colocation of the Charter school the existing public school was a real estate grab for the DOE's preference for privatizing public education.
"The colocation of this school was just wrong at every level," said United Federation of Teachers Chapter Leader at Aspirations High School Jeff Kaufman after the application for the school was withdrawn. Kaufman had taught incarcerated students for many years at Rikers Island before joining the staff at Aspirations.
"We have learned precious little since Brown v. Board of Education," [the landmark US Supreme Court which outlawed segregation in education.] "Segregating released students further stigmatizes these at risk students," he argued. "Newly released incarcerated students need to be carefully integrated into the community."
Kaufman also stated that concentrating newly released incarcerated students in the vacant space would have posed a risk to the students at Aspirations and the neighborhood around the school."
Kaufman cited the failure of Community Prep High School, a DOE public school attempt to segregate this population which was closed soon after it opened in a segregated facility on the East side of Manhattan.
It is not clear, at this time, how the DOE will utilize the newly vacated space.