Heketi vs. Goliath: Parents and teachers fight to save charter school

Dozens of parents and teachers flooded into the cafeteria at Heketi Community Charter School Wednesday to strategize how to save the school from closure in June.

Meeting for the second time since news broke in January that the state agency that oversees charter schools had recommended Heketi’s closure, parents and teachers were updated on efforts to appeal the decision and urged to attend the appeal hearing.

Parents say the Mott Haven charter, serving children in kindergarden through fifth grade, is unique in New York City.

“Emotionally, I can tell that my son has changed a lot,” said Stephanie Caban, whose son Tyler is in second grade. “He feels like he actually understands the material now.”

The Charter School Institute, a branch of the State University of New York that authorizes creation of charter schools and monitors their performance, issued a 64-page report in January saying that Heketi had not made satisfactory academic progress in the last three years, and recommending that it be closed.

Heketi Principal David Rosas told the group that while the school did have difficulty maintaining satisfactory test scores before he became principal in 2017, scores have been consistently improving.

Rosas said the closure recommendation came as a surprise to him, because he had been told by officials at the Institute that the school was in jeopardy, but was doing okay because its test results beat those of the Community School District 7 in which it operates.

“The first year of testing we were at district level. My second year as principal we were a little bit above. Last Spring, we were above the district by 19%. So, we beat the district,” Rosas said.

The school utilizes a unique wholistic approach to education, which parents believe has shifted student’s emotional development.

Juan Madera indicated that even though his son Jayden has been at Heketi less than one year, only transferring in October, he has become more independent and self-confident.

“It’s completely different from other schools,” Madera said. “Other schools force academics, and when students are forced, they forget how to be human.”

On March 10 at 12:30 PM, parents and faculty at Heketi are scheduled to appear at a public hearing to appeal the decision. Until then, parents and faculty are contacting elected officials to pressure the Charter School Institute to give Heketi a reprieve.

The agency has directed media seeking comment on the proposed closure to its report on the school.

A decision on the appeal is expected this spring.

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