Last Wednesday, students at Brownsville Academy High School organized a sit-in to oppose the Department of Education’s proposal to bring the new Brooklyn Success Academy Charter School 7 to the high school. In spite of the efforts of the students and the community, the proposal was approved the next day.
Brooklyn Success Academy Charter School 7 is a Kindergarten-through-5th-grade elementary charter school. It raised concerns of students and teachers alike at Brownsville Academy High School, a “last chance” high school, with students ranging from ages 17 to 21.
Tyrone Francisco, 18, a student at the high school, said, “Kindergarten through 5th grades can’t mix with our age group. It’s not a justice to us and it’s not a justice to those little kids.”
Bishop Willie Billips, who was there to offer his support to the students, agreed.
“My main concern is that they’re bringing in little kids,” he said.
Francisco sat at the front entrance of the school, chained to a desk. Students joined him chanting, “We are the best” and,”When public schools are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”
He said, “It’s not fair that they’re trying to take away our space. Mayor Bloomberg can’t just bulldoze schools for no reason.”
Natasha Giles, 19, a John Jay College student and alumni of the high school, said, “It’s ridiculous. This is like home to many of us. Why take something good out of a bad area?”
Giles is just one of the many success stories to come out of Brownsville Academy. She pointed out that the school makes sure that students are on the right track and get into college.
“In order to graduate, you have to have a college acceptance letter,” she said. Students take courses for college credit, do paid internships and participate in the AIDS walk. Resources available to them include a drug prevention program and the college office.
But some believe that because these students are “second chance” students and come from disadvantaged backgrounds, the Department of Education may eventually push them out of the building with the entry of the elementary school.
“Mayor Bloomberg thinks that we’re too much of a liability for his school system. It’s the type of students that we are,” said Francisco.
Billips said, “If this is gone, then of course they go back to the streets and we don’t want that. These are excellent scholars here, so we’re all going to sit together with this.”
With the proposal’s approval, the fate of the school is up in the air, but the students and community plan to stand strong.
Giles said, “We’re small, but we’re strong in numbers and spirit.”