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A School’s Closing Creates Uncertainty

RGA ClassroomLaura E. Lee An empty classroom at Ross Global Academy.

With the end of the school year just around the corner, students at Ross Global Academy are eagerly awaiting the start of summer. But some families face uncertain futures when the academy permanently closes its doors at the end of the month.

The New York City Department of Education announced the closure the charter school on East 11th Street at First Avenue in December, citing the reports of the school’s low test scores and high teacher turnover.

With the announcement, parents and staff fought to keep the school open. The school’s founder, multimillionaire Courtney Sale Ross, sent a letter to the Department of Education asserting that the Department did not follow proper procedures and requesting a renewal. Chancellor Joel Klein denied the request.

Richard Burke, executive director of the school, said that the Department has promised to place everyone by the end of the month. But some parents, still bitter about the circumstances of the closure, are angry about the reassignment process.

“We’re displaced,” said Noemi Hernandez, president of the academy’s Parent-Teacher Association. Ms. Hernandez said that although she lives in the neighborhood, she cannot register her two children at local schools without Department of Education approval.
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Ross Global Academy’s Fight for Life

Exterior of Ross Global Academy Charter SchoolM.J. GonzalezRoss Global Academy Charter School on 11th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A.

In 2009, teachers at the Ross Global Academy Charter School hung a blue banner across the main entrance that read, “We must become the change we want to see.” These days, the words on the banner are regarded by the school’s staff, parents, and students as more than an aspirational motto. In December, the Department of Education announced that the five-year-old school on East 11th Street near First Avenue will close at the end of the academic year. But some of the people involved with the school said that they are determined to convince the department to keep the school open.

They may have serious hurdles to overcome. When the academy was founded in 2006, it was given a five-year charter outlining academic, organizational and financial goals. Each year, the Department of Education performs a citywide evaluation to ensure that such goals are being met. This past year, the Ross Global Academy was ranked as the lowest performing charter school in the city.

Richard Burke, the executive director of a specialized enrichment and tutoring program at the school, said that the faculty is exploring every option they can think of to keep the school functioning.

“We’re doing everything possible to keep the school open,” he said. “Everything from a city to state level and a legal angle.”

While there are many at the school who share Mr. Burke’s goal, some of them said that they can’t help feeling worried about the future.

“We are dismayed,” said Stephanie Wilson, a member of the school’s Parent Teacher Association and Board of Trustees. “We’ve gone through the shock, and are now really sad and anxious.”

One of the things that Mrs. Wilson is most worried about, she said, is the possibility that the school’s successes will be overlooked. She said that the academy has had a positive effect on her two children.

Her 15-year-old son, Demetrius, graduated from R.G.A. in 2009 after completing eighth-grade, and was accepted into Brooklyn Technological High School, a highly competitive and academically rigorous specialized science high school in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

And Mrs. Wilson’s younger son, Elijah, 7, began at R.G.A. two years ago as a kindergartener. Read more…