The panel voted in a packed meeting in the auditorium at Newtown High School in Corona, Queens.
One hundred and two attendees signed up to speak in the public comment period, and the crowd was littered with signs denouncing CEO Eva Moscowitz and the Success Academy network, in addition to bearing the words “Occupy” and “99 percent.”
The crowd was rowdy and the 13 members of the Department of Education (DOE) panel had difficulty quieting people down to allow for public commentators.
Several faces in the crowd also appeared at a rally outside the K293 building in Cobble Hill two weeks ago, and another in front of the Success Academy headquarters at 310 Lenox Avenue in Manhattan last week.
In what has become the Occupy fashion, attendees at the DOE meeting repeated panel members' words verbatim, and shouted “shame,” hissing noises and other chants at speakers who support the proposals.
However, when a woman who spoke against it asked Chancellor Dennis Walcott a series of questions, then asked, “are you going to answer my questions?” Walcott replied, “no I'm not, next speaker please,” even though her allotted two-minute speaking period was not over.
Touters of the proposals were joined by United Federation of Teachers members and other local representatives including Council members Brad Lander and Steve Levin.
They argued that the charters will take up much-needed space in already overcrowded schools, and sharing buildings with regular public students will cause feelings of inequality due to unequal resources.
Dr. Claire Daley, a UFT chapter leader who works in the Brooklyn School for Global Studies, one of the high schools in the K293 building, said her school just raised its ranking from an F to a B and needs the 15 classrooms slated for the charter school to keep class sizes small.
But according to the DOE, K293 has 700 available seats.
“Our footprint isn't big enough, that's what the DOE says,” Daley said. “Our students are meeting higher than average than the rest of the city high schools in college readiness, and yet our foot print isn't big enough?”
Tessa Wilson, a parent in Bed Stuy, where Success Academy plans to co-locate a new elementary school, said her district already has 20 elementary schools.
The district needs a school for English language-learners and Individual Education Program students.
“So to already have 20 elementary schools and to continue to get more elementary schools when we have overcrowded middle schools just does not make sense,” Wilson said. “This is another situation where too much of a good thing really is too much.”
But supporters of the proposals said they want opportunities for their kids to get a better education without having to pay for private schools.
Bed Stuy resident Melissa Brooks said she went to specialized high school and middle school programs while growing up in Brooklyn.
“To me,” she said, “success academy is an extension of these types of programs, but it is not limited to just academics.”
She said 13 percent of students in Success Academies schools have special needs, which is higher than the DOE average, and provide additional opportunities to students learning English.
“I do want the best for my daughter,” Brooks said. “She knows college is in her future, and that should be applauded, not fought against.”
A DOE representative said the DOE approved the proposals because the Success Academy will provide high quality elementary schools for local families.
"We want to take the step of bringing a new, excellent elementary school for these communities to ensure access to high-quality seats for families,” the representative said. “The Success Charter Network is an organization with a strong track record and we anticipate that there will be great interest in this school in both of these neighborhoods."
The co-locations are set to begin in the 2012 school year.