The past two weeks have been more than a little rocky for Success Academy.
Board chairman Daniel Loeb is in hot water over a racial comment he made on Facebook, a controversy amplified by last weekend’s events in Charlottesville. At a protest Monday, other political leaders rallied around his target, state Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. The state’s top two education officials called out Loeb this week, as did former schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.
And Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz, who had previously said she was amenable to working with President Donald Trump, apologized in the wake of his actions this week for not being “more outspoken” about her disagreements with him.
So, how are the families of Success Academy reacting to all the news? The question is particularly poignant since about 93 percent of Success Academy students are children of color.
In Harlem on Thursday afternoon, students’ parents and family members said their reaction boiled down to one thing: Does this affect my child?
Jasmine Holst, for instance, who has a daughter in third grade at the Success Academy Hell’s Kitchen, said she doesn’t always agree with Moskowitz, but that does not change the way she feels about her daughter’s school.
“I’m not going to let her personal opinions affect my daughter’s education at the end of the day,” Holst said.
Others were quick to point out their own positive experiences with Success Academy staff. I haven’t “seen any racism from the teachers” at Success Academy Harlem 1, said Coco Rhymes, who has a daughter in third grade there.
Though she said Loeb should apologize for his comments, she also said she would not consider sending her child back to a traditional public school.
“She’s been to public schools and woo, that was really bad,” Rhymes said.
Many of the parents and family members Chalkbeat interviewed had not heard about the comment made by Loeb — who said that Stewart-Cousins, an African American, had done “more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood.”
“Fortunately, this hasn’t spewed into the school setting,” said Jasmine Alhyani, who has a daughter at Success Academy Harlem 1 and another at Success Academy Harlem West. “I hope it stays at the top.”
When she did hear, Alhyani said Loeb should send a personal apology to parents and students at the school. (Loeb has since deleted the post and publicly apologized.)
Others thought an apology wasn’t quite enough. While at the playground, watching her third-grade cousins who attend Success Academy Harlem 2, Danielle Lucas said Loeb should be forced to leave the board.
“We don’t want our kids to grow up thinking we’re in the old days,” Lucas said. “I think he should be on suspension until they find a better qualified person to run it. Action needs to be taken.”
Parents also bristled — to varying degrees — over Moskowitz’s previous relationship with the Trump administration. Tina Thompson, who has a daughter at Success Academy Harlem 1, said she was at her daughter’s school the day Ivanka Trump came for a tour.
Thompson said unless Ivanka Trump plans to assist the school, she should not have visited.
“It is inappropriate, unless she helps,” Thompson said.
She hadn’t read Moskowitz’s letter about Trump in its entirety, but agreed with the sentiment. “She should have been distancing herself since the beginning,” she said.