Mother of Autistic Child on “Got to Go List” Publicly Confronts Eva Moskowitz
On Friday January 22, 2016, the Center for New York City Law at New York Law School hosted the 131st City Law Breakfast. The event speaker was the highly controversial Success Academies (SA) CEO, Eva Moskowitz.
The video for the event can be viewed here.
During the Q&A portion of the event, several individuals confronted Moskowitz about the manner in which she runs her schools.
One such individual was former SA Fort Greene parent, Shanice Givens.
I recognized the name because I have read and written about the lawsuit, Ogundiran et al. versus Success Academy Fort Greene et al., filed in US District Court (Eastern District of New York) against five defendants, including SA Fort Greene and its principal, Candido Brown, for his having created a “got to go list” of students whom he obviously intended to force out of SA Fort Greene. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the parents of four SA Fort Greene students whose names were on Brown’s list.
Shanice Givens is one of those four parents.
Here is her story as it appears among the charges in the lawsuit:
C.S., S.G.’s son, has been diagnosed with autism. While attending kindergarten at Success FG, C.S. did not receive an IEP. Repeatedly, while attending kindergarten, S.G. received calls from officials at
Success FG telling her to pick up her child from school. On one occasion, in or around January 2015, S.C. (typo) was told that if she did not pick up C.S. within 20 minutes, the ACS would be called to take custody of the child.
On another occasion, C.S. was physically lifted out of a chair by a teacher for not following instruction.
After one year at Success FG, S.G. withdrew C.S. from the school. S.G. later learned that C.S. was on Defendant Brown’s “Go to Go” list.
And here is the transcription of Givens’ confrontation of Moskowitz during that Q&A session of the January 22, 2016, City Law Breakfast (beginning at 41:40):
Givens: Good morning, Eva. How are you?
Moskowitz: Good morning.
Givens: Hi. You didn’t shed any light on the “got to go list. I just want to know, did you publicly or maybe privately apologize to the any of parents that were affected by it?
Moskowitz: Um, there’s been an enormous amount of coverage. I see Kate Taylor (NY Times writer following the “got to go list” story) in the audience. Um, there were two stories on it, and yes, I, I did [apologize]. The list existed for three days. Uh, as soon as it came to our attention, which was within about 24 hours of it being produced, the principal was brought into the school and severely reprimanded for his actions. Uh, I’ve personally have done many parent meetings at Fort Greene, uhh, because of that mistake.
Givens: Hello. Sorry. I just wanted to say, my name is Shanice Givens, and my son was number three on the list, and I never got an apology from Ms. Eva. I never got anything.
Moderator: (Who has been trying to get Givens to stop talking since “Hello, sorry.”) May I ask you to be courteous?
Givens: (Maintaining a relatively calm, clear voice despite moderator protestations in background.) No. I just needed to say that because she just said that she publicly said something that she never said anything to me. My son was number three. And you said that you loved children so much that you still allow Mr. Brown to teach. He has wronged 16 children.
(Moderator asks technician to turn Givens’ mic off.)
The fact that Brown has not been terminated sends a strong message that “strong reprimander” Moskowitz condones his actions enough to keep him on the job– and in the classroom at another SA school, teaching third grade– a disconcerting truth that Givens rightly points out.
But there is another neon-lit issue in Moskowitz’s own words, and that concerns her statement that the “got to go list” “existed for three days”– which is simply not possible given some of the student names on it and the dates that they left SA Fort Greene.
In fact, it is much more likely that Brown composed his “got to go list” not long after his arrival at SA Fort Greene, in November/December 2014.
The Olgundiran et al. versus Success Academy Fort Greene et al. lawsuit has four plaintiffs, all of whom had children named on Brown’s “got to go list.”
According to the lawsuit, the first plaintiff withdrew her daughter from SA Fort Greene in time to start a new school in January 2015. The second plaintiff withdrew his son from SA Fort Greene in May 2015. And the third plaintiff withdrew her son from SA Fort Greene at the end of the 2014-15 school year.
These three children were among the 16 names on Brown’s “got to go list” that Eva says “existed for three days” in a story that broke in October 2015.
Why would Brown write the names of students who had already left SA Fort Greene on an October 2015 “got to go list”?
He wouldn’t because “gone” kids no longer “got to go”… which means Eva lied in an apparent attempt to diminish the seriousness of her retaining an SA employee whose “turn around” strategy for K-2 is to intentionally target students who could arguably present problems when that serious testing kicks in at grade 3.
The real problem for Eva appears to be that Brown got caught in October 2015 doing what he has arguably been doing since November/December 2014: targeting kids for an SA Fort Greene exit.
Immediately following Givens at the January 22, 2016, City Law Breakfast was Thomas Lopez Pierre, whose statement to Moskowitz took an unexpected, critical turn (at minute 43:04):
Pierre: Ah, yes. My name is Thomas Lopez Pierre. I’m a candidate for City Council in upper Manhattan. And unlike many of the individuals in this room, my kids actually attend Success Academy. My son was trapped in a failing school two blocks from where I live on the Upper West Side, and today, he got all 4’s in math, English, and science. He was awarded his class science award, and he, um, um, um, um, and my two daughters also attend the school.
Um, with that said, I am a critic of you, Ms. Moskowitz, and here’s the reason why. Um, you have failed to provide every public school student who wants to attend Success the opportunity, and until you are able to serve all the kids that want to get into your wonderful charter school, um, Success will not be a success. Thank you.
[Smiling] Thank you, I do have a lot of critics from a variety of places, and that’s, that’s part of the wonderfulness of New York.
For Moskowitz, part of the “wonderfulness of New York” is also that lawsuit filed against her schools for targeting children– and for allegedly failing to take the initiative to identify and to properly serve students eligible for special education services– students like Givens’ autistic son.
Beyond New York, Moskowitz is also facing a federal civil rights complaint related to SA’s alleged failure to follow the law regarding properly serving students with special needs.
Trying to mold a charter network student body into a compliant army of high test scorers can be rough, eh?