School fight over Icahn Charter HS

Community Board 11 education committee chairwoman Diane Norris (center) raises objections on the proposal to co-locate the Icahn Charter High School with JHS 144.
Photo by David Cruz

A push to cram a charter high school into a Pelham Parkway middle school building has met resistance by educators, concerned over creating tensions and overcrowding.

Two meetings hosted by the city Education Dept. will decide whether the new Icahn Charter High School (ICHS) should be co-located into Junior High School 144, a turnaround school on the brink of succeeding.

The school at 2545 Gunther Ave. sits in District 11, which already has four of the borough’s seven Icahn schools.

JHS 144 already shares the four-story building with the highly-praised Pelham Gardens Middle School, bringing total occupany to 65%.

Emily Giblin, a JHS 144 teacher, worried “co-location would bring a fight for space, a fight for resources, tensions among leaders and things we shouldn’t have to deal with at this moment.”

Icahn charter schools end at the sixth or eighth grade. ICHS would serve as a way to retain its graduating eighth graders, continuing the same high-level of education.

The proposal echoes the DOE’s 2008 decision to co-locate the Sports Professions High School into the campus, resulting in classes taught inside trailers parked in the schoolyard.

The DOE has now backpedaled on prior assurances that guaranteed the building would no longer serve the high school.

“We were told no high school would be returning to 144,” said Councilman Jimmy Vacca. “So obviously DOE’s word means nothing.”

Vacca, along with Sen. Jeff Klein, have also joined the fight to prevent the co-location.

Community Board Hearing

Community Board 11 officially opposed the plan following a Sept. 26th hearing, where members heard from educators.

“We’re not opposed to the charter high school,” said Pamela Johnson, head of the Community Education District Council 11. “We don’t want them mixed up with the middle school.”

Members were also concerned middle school students in the neighborhood would have little chance to even apply for ICHS since officials will matriculate students who’ve graduated from Icahn’s middle school.

If approved, roughly 40-50 ninth graders from the Icahn system will attend in 2014, with the DOE adding another grade each year until it reaches capacity during the 2017-18 school year.

Harry Hartfield, a spokesman for the DOE, stood by the agency’s bid to co-locate the school, citing it’s decade long policy that’s “delivered historic highs in graduation rates, lowered drop-out rates by half, and given parents more school options than ever before in city history.”

“Our strategy has worked,” said Hartfield. “And with this new school, that progress will continue.”

Co-location would take effect in the 2014-15 school year should the Panel for Educational Policy vote in favor of it at an Oct. 15 public meeting.

DOE officials will hear from the public at a separate hearing slated for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7th at 2545 Gunther Ave.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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