Southeast Queens Success Academy students demand a permanent middle school during City Hall rally

Courtesy of Success Academy

Hundreds of fourth-grade students, parents and educators from southeast Queens rallied on the steps of City Hall Monday to protest Mayor Bill de Blasio’s delay in identifying a permanent middle school location for students from four Queens Success Academy elementary schools.

Success Academy families in the borough have been waiting for more than two years for a permanent middle school and when no location was made available for this school year as promised in 2017, parents stepped up their advocacy, phoning City Hall and meeting with Queens elected officials and circulating a petition that gained nearly 13,000 supporters.

“We are here today to ask Mayor de Blasio to keep his promise,” Success Academy Founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz said. “The promise he made at Riverside Church five years ago: to be the mayor of all children, to not discriminate against charter school children, and the promise he made two years ago: to give these Queens students a middle school.”

Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts students, Tiayna Harris and Kayla Montgomery, who were among the 194 middle school students the mayor tried to evict from their school in 2014, spoke at the rally in solidarity with their younger peers.

“Five years ago, I was part of the 194. I felt unimportant, disrespected and invisible to the education system,” Harris said. “In truth, I was so visible, the mayor wanted me to be invisible. When I heard that Mayor de Blasio was denying these kids in Queens a middle school, I thought, again?”

Without a middle school, 227 children will be forced to leave Success Academy, where they are thriving. On last year’s New York State exams, 99 percent of the fourth-graders passed math and 93 percent passed ELA. Nearly 87 percent are students of color and 69 percent receive free and reduced-price lunch.

More than half of these 227 would go to their zoned schools, into 36 of the most overcrowded district schools in southeast Queens. According to city data, and an analysis by independent researchers, there are seven public school buildings with 450 to 1,000 empty seats in southeast Queens, any one of which the city could use to serve these students, rally organizers said.

The mayor arrived at City Hall just as the rally was ending at 10:30 a.m., walking past the protestors holding signs reading “I want to Learn” and “Don’t Stop Me at 4th Grade.” His silence prompted a civics lesson from Moskowitz.

“Scholars, this is an important civics lesson because he walks right by you, not as Tiyana said, because you are invisible,” Moskowitz said. “You are visible, you have self-determination. That’s why you’re here. You’re not going to be invisible, and we are going to stand together so you are visible not only now, but through your whole lives.”

QNS reached out to City Hall and is awaiting a response. Last month more than 4,000 parents, students and teachers rallied for a permanent middle school at Roy Wilkins Park in St. Albans.

Success Academy schools received more than 17,000 applications for about 4,000 seats for the 2019-20 academic year.

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